A Penny’s Worth of Thought

Opening Day 2013, and the world in my home looks happy to greet it. It seems to me as good a time as any to restart Monday’s Penny. I’ve spent the past several months with my head buried in a novel I’ve been writing, which has occupied virtually all of my spare time. Now that the novel is in a workable form, it’s time to return once more to other writing projects, including the blog.

To tell the truth, I’ve been hesitant to work on Monday’s Penny again, for two reasons. One is that I’d made a commitment to myself to stay relentlessly positive and to avoid talking about church politics as much as possible (and yes, those things are related). I felt I was doing a poor job with resisting the temptation, and looking back over previous posts, I think that’s a valid bit of self-criticism.

But the bigger reason is that I fell victim to a sort of self-doubt that plagues writers (and more reflective preachers) across the globe. I began to wonder if I had anything to say that was really worth saying. It seemed that others were doing a perfectly adequate job of dealing with the humor and complexities that make life really interesting. What did I have to add to that conversation? Certainly nothing new.

Then I went back and re-read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek, and I remembered why I started this project. It was not to say grand things or break new ground. It was simply to call attention to bits of everyday goodness and wisdom that we might otherwise have missed, like a penny in the parking lot. It’s easy enough to forget the penny was ever there if you hurry on past it. But if you take the time to pick it up, you might discover a surprising treasure.

Even though I haven’t been writing for the blog lately, I’ve still been collecting pennies. I feel sorry for them in a way. No one counts them of much value, which is why they’re so abused. But try to buy a soda and a package of sunflower seeds at the convenience store near my office with only two dollars and a quarter. The register will ring $2.26. The attendant doesn’t flinch, and there is no take-a-penny tray in this establishment. That one forgotten coin you almost neglected turns out to be the difference in your diet, if not your day.

When we—writers, preachers, poets, or anyone else with a leaning toward creative expression—prejudge our work and stop ourselves from creating it, we leave our ideas laying on the pavement, ignored and soon to be forgotten. But who knows when one of those pennies will turn out to be just the thing? Our insights and experiences, however limited in value in the harsh eyes of a critical world, are the currency of human interaction. We hoard them at our own peril.

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