I never have correct change. Usually, I don’t have any change in my pockets, at least not for long. It’s not because I have holes in my pockets. It’s because…well, here’s the story.
Some years ago—I’m not sure when exactly. It must have been before 1998, because we were living in the little postwar prefab; now we live in the prewar lannon stone—I went with my wife and her father on a walk downtown. My wife and her father are brisk walkers. I have often joked that they walk “like someone who has just committed a crime.” It was no surprise that they outpaced me.
I walked along, as is my habit, with my hands in my pockets. For some reason I wanted my pockets empty, so I took the change in my pocket, a quarter and a dime, and dropped them on the sidewalk. I assumed I would pick them up again on the way back. We did whatever it was we intended to do, and I left my wife and father-in-law and returned home before them. I completely forgot about the coins on the sidewalk.
Now my father-in-law was not a poor man. Though he had grown up in the Great Depression and had known hard times as a child, he was a successful electrical engineer, working both in the States and abroad. In other words, he did not struggle to pay his bills. Indeed, he was able to be generous.
When he returned with my wife from downtown, he walked in the front door with a big smile and said, “I found thirty-five cents on the sidewalk!” I don’t remember what I said, but I made no claim on the money.
Later I reflected that there was nothing I could have purchased, no experience I could have provided, nothing I could have done with that quarter and dime, including just giving it to him, that would have brought my father-in-law as much joy as finding it on the sidewalk. And that made me happy.
So that’s why I never have change. I drop coins on the sidewalk, put them on store shelves, throw them into parking lots. Maybe someone will find them, maybe someone will have a little joy added to their day, but this is certain: I am a bit happier considering the possibility.
And there is an unforeseen consequence: a spiritual lightening of the heart accompanies the lightening of the pocket. Letting go of the change in my pocket loosens my grip on the rest of my possessions. I have, in a very small way, acted my way into a different way of thinking, feeling.
That’s been correct change.