As I stood in the eternal ASA line in Atlanta last week, I heard a distinct ker-ching! ker-ching! Five or six folks turned their heads to see two freshly fallen quarters wobbling on the floor. Fifty cents! That’s a whole Coca-Cola! Then I remembered that it was no longer 1983–I’d need significantly more coins from Heaven to score a can of my childhood elixir of life. No matter, fifty cents is fifty cents! My fellow travelers and I looked at each other, chuckling that this money seemed to have fallen from the ceiling above. Then the line started moving again. Seeing no one claim the coins, I inclined to retrieve them and then stopped short. Why isn’t anyone diving for this money? The line is moving, no one is reaching for it . . . and then it dawned on me: we are above this now. Two unclaimed quarters were too inconvenient, negligible, and perhaps too embarrassing to pick up from the airport floor. I felt it myself, and it disturbed me. It wasn’t much money, and it would have been insufficient to buy a coffee-flavored elixir of life for this now grown-up, but it could be enough to feed someone in a disadvantaged region. Does that sound familiar? Feed a child for just fifty cents a day . . . ? My son gets paid fifty cents to pick up trash in the yard, something that keeps him occupied for a blessed 15 minutes. At the very least, two quarters would buy me an hour of metered parking in this town.
As I moved on, this small event brought to mind two mantras. First my mom always said, “Pennies turn into dimes, dimes turn into dollars.” She taught me to stretch my resources, to create for myself when I can, and to wait for things. Second, especially as our debt snowball accelerates: “Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” It’s true. I’ve been practicing it for 20 years. In five years, we’ve paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and one (of several) reason is because I say NO often. But, walking away from that half-dollar shining on the airport floor, I wanted to say YES and grab it. I trust that someone wiser than I did.