A Scientific Theology of Lucky Pennies

This morning, Sam (is a dog) and I went out for our usual walk—three or four miles through the forest, sheets of orange arranged on us to ward off stray shot from bird hunters and arrows from would be deer slayers.  During the plague years, folk wisdom suggested certain amulets would keep away the Black Death.  One of the more popular was a dead toad around the neck.  Although no quantitative research was done, my bet is the bacterium Yersinia pestis was no respecter of reptiles.  The color orange in the autumn woods, on the other hand, was chosen because of science.  After all, neither Sam nor I has been shot.  We don’t have the plague either, so that’s something to keep in mind during the next outbreak of either bubonic or pneumonic.  Until my bubo-ridden corpse is filled with bird shot or arrows, I will believe in the color orange.  Because of science.

During our walk, about two miles in on a narrow just-barely-there path, a tiny, shiny object caught my eye.  Here, on the outskirts of nowhere, was a penny in the dirt!  Unlike a dead toad, a found penny even has a rhyme to activate its power.  As I picked it up, I solemnly intoned, “Find a penny.  Pick it up.  All the day you’ll have good luck.”  The penny went in my pocket, and a certain bounce came into my step.  After all, today was a day filled with luck!

We walked through woods that had only a third as many leaves as when we’d moved up here six weeks ago.  I could see way deeper on either side, as could Sam, which led him to believe fun and play lay 120 feet in.  Watching him bounce his boxer bounce through short undergrowth made me laugh out loud.  Alone.  In the woods.  I touched the penny in my pocket, and felt grateful and lucky to be right here right now.

The missing foliage meant, 10 minutes later, we could look down from the path and see Lake Francis.  We’d walked here a dozen times before, but the water, shiny in the just-risen sun, had always been hidden.  Now, we walk-hopped down the 200-foot embankment and stood on the rocks beside the lake, Sam finding a way down to get a drink.  The lake shimmered like foil in the sun, and I fingered my penny again, grateful for my luck in being with Sam at this moment in this place.

After meandering along the shoreline for 10 minutes, we cut back up to the path to walk back to the Tiny White Box.  When we got back, Sam had his dish filled with dog food, while I the best apple-cinnamon oatmeal I’ve had all day.  I felt lucky to be eating such delicious food.

I’m not a praying man—except for one prayer I say mantra-like maybe a hundred times a day:  Thank you, God.  Today, I am grateful for finding that penny, for after all, look at all the luck it brought me.  I know I could believe the penny was merely an external sign of inward grace, an object that helped me focus my intention on looking for the good and expecting the best.  I could believe that penny was nothing more than training wheels for a spiritual life focused on gratitude.  I could believe the universe offers unlimited opportunities to discover beauty, joy and contentment.  And I do.

As long as I’ve got a lucky penny and don’t have a toad around my neck.



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