The Coin That Wowed Me


A very simple thing happened the other day. Someone bought me the 20 cent stamp I needed to mail my father’s birthday card. But it wowed me. You see, I had included in the same envelope a card from my spouse and myself and one I had made from my two-month-old daughter to her grandfather. I was feeling proud of myself for being almost a week ahead of time this year. I had even managed to find a stamp!

With hope that this would be the year that I could get cards to Dad in time for his birthday, I hurried between feedings to our local drug store where they have a postal counter, trying to make it before the mailman arrive to pick up the days mail. About half-way there, I realized I didn’t have any cash on me, not even a quarter. If my letter was overweight, I wasn’t sure when I would get free again to run what would have been such a simple errand pre-baby, but in my new-mom state, was still a feat!

The mailman’s truck was in front of the drug store and the mailman was inside patiently waiting for an elderly woman to complete her transaction at the counter so he could take her package. He graciously accepted the other letters I had to mail (baby announcements, stamped and ready to go). And then waited (still patiently) for the clerk to weigh my Dad’s cards. The verdict: “You need $.20.” Normally, this would not be a big deal. Normally, I would simply mail the cards priority mail the next day, but this time, I felt majorly defeated.

I realize now that mailing the birthday cards had become a marker of what I can accomplish as a new mother. I had just accepted a part-time job beginning in February, and I was (and am) nervous about being able to do – not “it all,” but just some – enough to keep my head above water, to serve the congregation who has hired me well, care for my baby, and not miss too much of her magic along the way. If I could get those cards in the mail to Dad on time, I would be a successful person, even with baby!

But I couldn’t. “I can’t do it then,” I said to the clerk and the mailman.  “I don’t have any cash, not even a quarter.” I turned to walk away.

Then in a fluid motion, before I could even see what was happening, the mailman reached into his pocket, pulled out a quarter and gave it to the clerk who, equally fast, put the extra stamp on the letter, gave it to the mailman, collected the quarter and put it in his drawer.

I was left standing there, an unconscious “wow” escaping my lips, only mildly embarrassed, grateful, and awed by what may well have been more an act of efficiency rather than kindness, but a simple act nonetheless that reminded me to accept the grace that is offered, the help that is extended, and to do so humbly, with gratitude and, yes, awe.

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