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see a penny

The lowly penny is powerful. It is dispensable as change and the agent of change my day often needs. Since I look for pennies, I find them everywhere. People leave them all over the place and any penny I find on the ground, heads facing up or heads facing down, I deem lucky.

I have a jar on my desk full of "lucky pennies". The lucky ones are separate from the ordinary loose change that collects in my coat pockets and cup-holders. Here's why they are different: I had to look for the lucky ones. I had to get present, look for them and find them.

I lived in Brooklyn, NY for twelve years. In a salmon farm like Manhattan, everyone is swimming hard upstream, aspiring for greatness or trying not to drown. I am an actor so I go on auditions and after a particularly grim one, I walked down to the Staten Island Ferry slip from the Upper West Side. I didn't see many of the faces of the people I passed or notice the sliver of perceivable sky. I cut people off and stepped in gum. I scowled at the traffic that slowed my frenzied pace. I walked miles and managed not to participate in the hours it took me.

I sat on a bench and looked at the Hudson. I realized I was sweating in spite of the freezing temperature. My feet were numb so I looked at them just to confirm they were still attached to my ankles and saw a shiny penny. Out of place, it shined in brilliant contrast with the desecrated sidewalk.

I scoured my ratty brainy for hours on that walk, looking for a salve to my worries. What can I do about my life, my broken creativity and my lack of joy? How will I make money? Where will I find my luck? When will my ship come in?

For hours my brain had taken me out of the world and into my own hell. Then a shiny penny made me surface. A little meaningless, nearly valueless object of effervescence and whimsy bubbled up from the pit of darkness. And it didn't cost a penny.

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