Thursday, July 27, 2006
And there was much wailing and gnashing...
A couple of Sundays ago, walking home after the morning service at our church I saw, glittering at me from the gutter near the storm drain, a nickel. I am enough of a Scotsman that I stoop over to pick up coins from the ground!
This particular nickel, located as it was near the storm drain, immediately took me back to an incident in my childhood. When I was a tiny tot, our family cook who also was my nurse, took me every afternoon to the little store around the corner from our home. The store was owned and operated by a wonderful Chinese family, the Chows. I always had a nickel to spend. A nickel in those days bought a lot.
One could choose from a variety of penny candies, as well as bubble gum, which cost a cent per piece. I especially remember the long peppermint sticks. The thin ones were a penny; the big, fat ones were a nickel.
The store had a small glassed-in counter with the standard candy bars, all of which were five cents. Then there were frozen treats, a Dixie cup, or a fudge bar, or Popsicle. A Coca-Cola was also five cents.
So each day there was a delightful choice to be made. I think the plain Hershey bar was always my favorite.
The traumatic day I remember followed an intense summer shower and involved my dawdling behind to poke with a stick at the leaves that were blocking the rivulets of water coming down the street into the storm drain. I had my nickel (the kind with the Indian head on the front and the buffalo on the back) in my hand, and somehow dropped it right through the iron grate into the drain.
There was much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. There was also no replacement. For my carelessness, I had to do without my afternoon snack. As you can see the lesson made its lasting impression!
So when I found that nickel, I picked it up, feeling that somehow the justice of the universe had finally smiled on me and that the losses of old had been repaid. All was right with the world once more!
Coins I find around the church I always place in the collection plate. I figure that is where they were intended to be. No doubt they are accidentally lost by children frolicking around between Sunday school and church.
In the days of my childhood, nickels were the appropriate contribution for Sunday school children to make. In our Sunday school we had a little wooden bank in the shape of a church into which we solemnly deposited our nickels.
Sometimes we were tempted to keep back our nickels to buy one of our classmates named Charles Glassco extra Coca-Colas from the church’s machine during the break between Sunday school and church.
Charles had mastered the ability to down an entire king size Coke without coming up for air. It was marvelously wonderful to watch the contortions of his face as it turned from red to purple as he completed this extremely difficult feat.
Sometimes we would put salt in the drink to increase its fizz. Of course we had to be sure no adults were around as these theatrical performances went on.
As it happens, our Bible school, which we conduct with the Methodists and Episcopalians, began the evening that I found my nickel. The children were collecting money for international clean water projects.
I really wanted to keep my nickel — what with the reparations of the universe and all. But I thought about all those thirsty people the missionaries could help.
So I ended up placing my nickel with the dollars (that seems to be the currently “correct” contribution for children’s collections in church these days).
I wonder why we remember the lessons of childhood so vividly? And I am sorry for children who do not have nurses and parents and grandparents to administer them.
Losing a nickel so long ago did me a great deal of good. It has helped me put many other nickels to better use, I think.
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