When I see a penny on the ground, it reminds me of a sermon I heard two summers ago. I’m probably getting some details wrong, but here’s how I remember it.
The priest told about a monk who worked with men overcoming alcohol and drug addictions. He would walk and talk with them, and sometimes he would drop a penny. (The priest stepped away from the lectern and strolled down the aisle and back, depicting the scene.) The guys would notice the pennies but not say anything. Over time he would drop more valuable coins. I think it got to a half-dollar before one of the guys finally said something: Hey, you dropped some money.
I know, he told them. He likened the coins to sins, the dropping to awareness of them, and the retrieving (or failure to retrieve) to attentiveness to that awareness. The more you ignore those pennies, the easier it is to become numb to the nudge.
Niggles and nudges, a friend calls them, because that’s what one of her friends calls those little twinges of conscience, prompting us to hold back from what we shouldn’t do, to push forward and do what we know we should do but don’t always want to. I picture mine as a border collie, herding me or nipping at my heels. Sometimes the dog-ahem of a low growl is enough.
I heard that memorable sermon at a small church in Massachusetts, after the Glen East weeklong workshop. I was at the checkout table, and one of my classmates was checking out too. He mentioned that he and his wife were going to worship nearby. “Can I come with you?” Yes, there was room in the car, and room for a fourth, so he invited another of our classmates as well, and we were four pilgrims off to pass the peace and hear about pennies.
To read the rest, please come with me over to the Art House America blog.