My dad could pinch a penny. He would squeeze a nickel until George Washington cried for air. That was daddy. He would stop and pick up every penny he came upon. Didn’t matter if it was in the dirt, on a side walk, or a funeral home. He’d stop and pick that penny up.
I asked him one time, “Daddy, why do you pick up pennies? You can’t buy anything with a penny!”
Dad just smiled as he slipped the penny into his pocket and said, “Yeah son, that’s right. But ninety-nine more of those and you’ll have a dollar.” That’s how my dad thought. Why was that?
You see, dad grew up with nine brothers and sisters during the Great Depression in the 1920’s when he would hoe cotton from sunup to sundown for two bits a day. That’s twenty-five cents for the younger crowd who don’t know what “two bits” are. Then, he’d take his two bits and put it with the two bits that his brothers and sisters had earned and give it to their mama, a whopping $2.50 for a whole day’s work among ten kids. With that, Grandma would buy necessary items like flour, sugar, cane syrup, and the like. You know, food items. I’ll do the math for you. That’s $15.00 a week during the summer while school was out of session. Oh, and Grandma used the flour sacks to make the boy’s shirts and the girl’s dresses. With ten kids, you bought flour in cloth sacks weighing thirty or fifty pounds respectively.
The short side of the story is that Dad knew the value of a dollar. He knew what a day’s work was too. For the thirty-one years that I knew him, he never took a vacation. He didn’t have time, the money, or the inclination to take a vacation. He had livestock and crops to tend to and if he didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. He worked from sun up to sun down six days a week and sometimes seven days a week. There were no days off. If it rained and we couldn’t work in the crops, we fixed fences in the rain. If there was snow or sleet, we still loaded a trailer with hay and fed cows. If was 103 degrees we still hauled hay. Oh yeah, just so you know, I don’t know that Dad ever cleared more than $16,000.00 a year for us to live on. That was a good year.
When Dad grew up, the nearest telephone was ten miles away. Now days there’s a telephone in every hip pocket. He didn’t have electricity in his home until 1959 and it would be 1991 before he ever owned a color television. Now, there’s an average of three televisions in every home! Now I don’t know that for certain but I suspect it’s a pretty good guess.
Dad knew the value of a dollar because he understood the work required to earn a whole dollar. That’s why he would stop and pick up pennies, because “ninety-nine more and you’ll have a dollar.” But there was more to it than that. I later learned that Dad’s philosophy on saving money, picking up pennies, and not investing in recreational ventures was actually biblical in nature.
What?! You don’t believe me? Shame on you! I’ve never lied to you and I’m not going to start today.
There’s a little story in the Bible about Jesus feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fish. Everyone ate their fill. No one was hungry! When they picked up what was left over of all the broken pieces there were twelve full baskets of food in surplus! That’s found in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6.
Now what does that have to do with money? As the disciples picked up the fragments of food left over after the meal the quantity of the food had multiplied. That’s what Dad was thinking when he stopped to pick up pennies. He knew that it was in the fragments, what no one wanted, that’s where blessing was.
“Ninety-nine more and you’ll have a dollar.” I can still hear him say it. How quickly those pennies add up! How quickly the dollars add up! You see, my Grandma knew the blessing of how a little could be stretched a long way to feed ten kids. She knew if Jesus could feed five thousand, then surely she could feed ten. She taught that principle to my dad and he applied it to every facet of his life.
When he left a room, he turned the light off. When he cranked that truck, he got everything done in one trip. There were no multiple trips to “town”. When he dished up a plate of food, he ate everything. Everyone else at his table did to. “Waste not, want not.” He would say. I’m thinking there’s a biblical concept there as well. But let’s get back to the feeding of the five thousand.
Five loaves and two fish were turned into a SURPLUS in feeding five thousand. So much so that they gathered TWELVE baskets of food that couldn’t be eaten! So, the food multiplied. It had been blessed. That was the blessing. But they PICKED UP everything that was left over, just like Dad picked those pennies up. That was the greater blessing in that it shows God’s provision. When Dad picked up a penny, that was God’s blessing him because he knew the value of a dollar.
Now just in case you think I’m blowing a lot of wind, consider this. The feeding of the five thousand is the ONLY miracle that Jesus did that is mentioned in ALL FOUR GOSPELS! The only one. I’d say that’s a pretty important life lesson.
Pinch those pennies. They WILL add up!
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