This I Believe

Isabel - San Francisco, California
Entered on June 4, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

The Power of a Penny

I have recently begun to notice a peculiar habit of mine; every time I come upon a penny, whether it lay on a couch or on the sidewalk of a dirty street, I bend down to examine it. If the penny lies “tails up,” I instinctively turn it over. But if the penny lies “heads up,” I walk away feeling just a little bit luckier.

What initially attracts me to a penny is the luck that it promises, for as most all of us have heard , “see a penny, pick it up– if its heads, you’ll have good luck!” But I have found something more profound than luck in a penny; in Lincoln’s face, smiling confidently into any weathered sky, I have found the power of optimism.

Growing up in San Francisco, I have encountered people from all different walks of life. I was once walking down a fairly busy street when an older man wearing layers of thin clothes with scattered holes in them walked quickly towards me. Smiling with the few teeth that he had left, he looked me directly in the eye and asked, “Would you like to buy a Street Sheet?” I dug around my bag to find the two dollars necessary for the purchase of this newspaper, but came back with only one. I apologized and hastily turned away, thinking he would gladly move on to the next able looking customer walking the street. “Have it anyways,” he instead said , “even today, in our own reckless society, even just a penny can go a long ways.” I handed him my dollar, and walked away smiling, carrying my new edition of the Street Sheet and feeling as if my empty pockets were suddenly filled with an indelible new substance, optimism.

A penny, I realized, is indeed valuable in this society, filled with ethical egoists. It may seem worthless in its individual materialistic value, but the optimism that a lucky penny conveys reaches farther into the human spirit than money ever can, bringing forth the hope that is necessary to achieve any deed in life successfully. Few understand that it is not solely the worth of money that helps one reach their dreams, but it is the feeling of security and confidence it bears. Lucky pennies do just this, supplying those who find them with the confidence to live with unrestrained optimism and hope for happiness, comfortably weighing down one’s pockets.

It has been proven by positive-psychologists that an optimistic mind directly correlates with general happiness. I wish to spread this message, which I now realize is the basis of my unusual habit. By facing every penny I come upon upwards, I believe that I can share the consummate power of optimism with others. I believe that optimism is necessary and contagious, and by passing on that little bit of luck that one gains when they see Lincoln’s smiling face on a penny, they too will live with positively full pockets.