One Thin Dime?

My bank cheated me out of nine cents last week. It’s really not such a big deal. It is less than a dime; hardly worth bothering with, but sometimes the principle is as important as the value. Maybe I’ll give them a call tomorrow…
How did my bank cheat me, you ask? They didn’t do it knowingly, but it happened nonetheless. Earlier last week, I had the Lovely Lady pick up several rolls of coins from the financial institution while she was making a deposit there. Buying coins is a common occurrence for us, since our cash register is always in need of change. Then yesterday morning, I noticed that the dimes in the cash drawer were running low, so I grabbed that five dollar roll of the thin coins and dropped it into the bin, opening it when I needed a dime to add to a customer’s change about noon. But last night, as I was counting out the register to finish the day, I noticed something weird.
I was counting the dimes when I thought that there was a flash of some coin a little different color. Since they all had fit uniformly in the stack of coins I held in my hand as I counted, I wasn’t concerned. Later, however, I thought about that single, dark dime. Strange–dimes weren’t usually brown. I went digging in the bin for it and pulled it out. Aha! It wasn’t a dime, but a penny! But wait! Pennies don’t fit neatly with dimes. They are larger in diameter. How was it then, that the stack of coins was so uniform, so consistent? A closer look at the coin in my hand revealed the answer. Some joker had very carefully filed off the edge of the imposter coin, removing the raised rim all the way around. It was almost exactly the same diameter as a dime, therefore fitting neatly into a roll and, as a consequence, costing me exactly nine cents.
For just a moment, I sit and visualize the scenario. The young man holds the contents of his broken piggy bank in his hands, counting his dimes. Forty-nine! He’s counted it three times and every time, it comes out to forty-nine. He needs fifty dimes to make a five dollar roll. Then, his eyes light on the handful of stray pennies lying nearby and an idea comes to him. Moments later, after putting down the file, he holds fifty coins which will pass muster as a complete roll of dimes and he is off to the bank. They don’t even look at the coins as they are loaded in the automatic counter, dropping down into their individual slot to be stacked and covered in the prefabricated paper roll. No one ever looks at that odd coin, not actually a dime, but no longer just a penny. It certainly doesn’t belong here, but it will take someone with eyes to see before that can be determined. By then, the young man is long gone, enjoying the hamburger and fries his five-dollar bill purchased for him at the local burger joint.
And me? I’m still nine cents short! The coin is an imposter, a pretender, and it’s not worth anywhere near what its value should have been. I’ve been taken in by a fraud!
Funny. The penny has a proper place. It also should normally come to me in a roll of coins from the bank, to be opened and dropped into a drawer in my cash register. I buy pennies all the time. In fact, the Lovely Lady picked up a few rolls at the same time she acquired this roll of dimes the other day. It’s simply that I only pay one cent apiece for these coins. They have a different purpose and belong in a different location. There is no place in either drawer for this marred coin now. I’ll probably throw it away, someday…
My mind goes back nearly forty years. The skinny boy has slipped out from his parent’s house, sneaking away to a dance with his friends. The music is loud, the girls are attractive, and one of his friends has a bottle of who-knows-what to share around. They have a drink and some of the boys are brave enough to ask the girls to dance, but the skinny boy isn’t having much fun. He realizes that he doesn’t belong here. He is not one of these guys, not at all who they think he is. It doesn’t help that just about then, the cover band playing on the little dance stage starts into their rendition of Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come.” The skinny boy knows when he is beaten. He heads for the exit.
Now, you need to read this very carefully. I am notmaking a statement about whether drinking and dancing is acceptable. This is not a discussion about that at all. The statement is about who the skinny boy was. His parents had taught him that dances were not a proper place for him to spend time, had assured him that drinking was not the way to prove his worth to his friends. He was out of place, simply because he wasn’t supposed to be there doing those things.
Here in the south, we would say that the skinny kid stuck out like a sore thumb. You know how it is. You hit your thumb with a hammer and it hurts like a fire burning. Then every time you bump it against anything for the next few days, you feel that awful pain once more. It doesn’t matter how you baby the sore digit or try to protect it; you’re bound to bump it again and again. The sore thumb doesn’t belong there; won’t fit in until it is no longer sore. As long as it is what it is–sore–the thumb won’t blend in.
I have tried to blend in where I had no business being on any number of occasions. I was uncomfortable years ago as I attempted to sell vacuum cleaners, and again that time when I was standing in the garage with all the guys swapping filthy stories. More recently, I was out of place in the coffee shop surrounded by teenagers texting each other, and I was even ill at ease as I sat on a church board. Some of those places, it was just wrong for me to be in; others simply weren’t the correct fit for me. Oh, I tried to file off the edges; tried to change my shape a bit in an attempt to keep folks from noticing. But, sooner or later, the shape you are determines the space you will fill.
It doesn’t make sense to try to be something you are not. It is not profitable to try to fit into a round hole, even though you are unmistakeably square. We are not intended to live our lives pretending. We will wear ourselves out with trying to conform where we have no business being at all.
Do you want to accomplish great things? Do them in the space in which you were intended to fit. We misunderstand the meaning of the phrase “great things” if we only think that they are those things which attract attention, the things which gain notoriety. Sometimes, the small things we can accomplish using the tools and talents with which we have been blessed will be the great things we always were intended to do in the lives of others.
It’s time to quit trying to pass myself off as a dime, when I’m nothing more than a simple penny. I think I’m going to keep circulating for awhile longer. Maybe you’ll come along with me.
Oh! The places we’ll go…
“What I do, you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
(Mother Teresa of Calcutta~Albanian missionary and Nobel Peace Prize winner~1910-1997)
“This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes.”
(Ecclesiastes 7:29~NIV)
“I seen so many things
I ain’t never seen before
Don’t know what it is
I don’t wanna see no more.
Mama told me not to come…”
(“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Randy Newman~recorded by Three Dog Night in 1970)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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