I believe in picking up lucky pennies—even the unsavory ones I spot on New York City sidewalks and Subway platforms. I keep my lucky pennies in a jar. I have them from many points in my life, from the many places I have lived and even some from places I have only passed through. While I have no idea where each one came from, I look at that jar and am reminded of where I am, remember where I have been and look forward to finding those pennies that are still waiting just for me.
Luck is a funny thing, isn’t it? I have never won the lottery nor a single contest among the many that I have entered. In the traditional sense of luck as “being in the right place at the right time,” I cannot pinpoint such a moment. Nonetheless I feel lucky. I see luck as a force in my life always leading me toward something. I can’t say that I know what that something is. Picking up lucky pennies reminds me of this. It helps me to see that the “right place” and “right time” are any place and any time, perhaps even every place and every time.
As a grad student I remember working really hard to earn a certain University assistantship. I didn’t get it, but luckily that led to countless other opportunities that opened tremendous doors for me— mostly doors on which I never went knocking. And so, I look at that force as lucky. When I pick up a lucky penny I become more deeply aware of this force in my own life and also think about how I may use that force to help others to feel lucky as well.
In my work as a singer and actor, I meet a lot of strangers in auditions lines. In these situations everyone is always searching for luck. From my perspective, the best luck I can ever give is to be a positive force, for even just a second. Last week someone said to me, “I feel lucky to have met you in line today.” I smiled and replied, “I feel lucky too.” I didn’t get the job, but that doesn’t make me feel any less lucky.
Not all the pennies I pick up are clean and pretty, and neither are all moments in life. Some of them are downright crummy. But we shouldn’t take this lovely word, luck, twist it around, and turn it into a negative force rather than a positive one. When faced with a risky or vulnerable situation, I often hear people say, “With my luck I won’t get anywhere.” This sets us up to operate backward and closes us off to the positive power of luck. In moments when I feel like this I replace “I won’t” with “I will.” This is as simple as saying “With my luck I will be who I am.”
If there is any secret about luck to be revealed here it is that, for me, luck comes from allowing myself to see the world—this means awareness, openness, availability, honesty and the willingness to take chances. Thinking this way leads to being this way and helps me to discover any time as the right place and the right time.
If I were to quantify the lucky pennies in my jar, I would say they are worth about one dollar. That isn’t much of an investment is it? Yet how lucky am I to have found such cheap richness? Maybe I have won the lottery after all, or maybe I just believe in luck.