As a kid, I would get so excited when I spotted a shiny penny on the ground. When we walked, my father would make a game of it and teach me whatever penny idiom that came to his mind. Most are rarely heard anymore, but some might remember these- “a penny for your thoughts” or “a penny saved is a penny earned” or if the penny was heads up, he would tell me, “see a penny, pick it up and all day long, you’ll have good luck.” Even back then, a penny wasn’t worth much. All you could buy with one was a gumball in the gumball machine at the local grocery. And while the bright colors of the gumballs in the dispensing machine made the five year old me desperately want one, after a few chews, that gumball generally lost all of its flavor and its appeal.
This gumball disappointment pattern continued throughout much of my life. If I could just get a better grade on the test, then I would get into the right college and be successful; if I was just a little bit prettier, then the cute boy in math class would like me and we’d get married; if I worked really hard on that presentation, then the meeting would go well, and I’d get that promotion I wanted. I might even get that coveted overseas job. But relationships ended. Jobs were lost. Living in that foreign country didn’t satisfy my inner longing. A fair amount of material wealth didn’t either. My life became one of continual striving to be approved, to be good enough, to be loved enough.
This is where I put my hope time and again, and each time, I would come up feeling empty. Every. Single. Time.
I began to ask myself. What did I really want out of life? What would truly satisfy? Many years ago, I embarked on an adventure to find that out. It’s one that I hope you will join me on. What I can tell you about my journey so far is that these days, when I see a penny or any other coin on the ground, I stop to turn it over so it is heads up. But I don’t believe in luck anymore, just like I don’t believe in striving for the American dream anymore. I believe we are meant to thrive and just like you, I’m trying to figure out what that looks like in this life. And why do I flip that penny? So that the next person who finds it is more likely to see the phrase, “In God we trust” stamped on that side.
Who or what is it that you put your trust in and how can you thrive?