Jamie Denty

Find a penny,

Pick it up,

All the day,

You’ll have good luck

Give it to a faithful friend,

Then your luck will NEVER end!

Remember the old penny valentines, the ones that came 50 to a bag? The ones that featured a flying insect with the message “Won’t you bee my Valentine?” Or the ones that pictured a train engine with the message, “I choo, choose you to be my Valentine.”

Our children would spend an hour or more shuffling through the cards in order to select the “perfect” card for each child in their classes. Decisions, decisions. It’s was so difficult to match card to student. Remember making school Valentine boxes, usually crafted from shoe boxes, and the strict rule that students could not bring cards to school unless they brought one for each student in their class? I am glad that some school systems continue this tradition in the elementary grades.

I also remember the day that the high school where I was teaching refused to accept any delivery of flowers or gifts on Valentine’s Day. Over the years, these remembrances had grown both in size and number until hundreds of bouquets arrived in the front office for dispersement to the right student.  These weren’t penny Valentines. Sadly, some students had even ordered flowers for themselves so they wouldn’t appear left out. The constant deliveries and calls for students over the PA system interrupted everyone throughout the school day again and again.

Also, remember when people would to stoop to pick up a penny? I still do. But most folks these days walk over one without ever looking down. I love the stories about those who save their pennies each day and are surprised when in no time at all, they have enough money to purchase that item they have long wanted. Folgers coffee used this concept in one of its ads last year.

This week, we observe both Lost Penny Day on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, and two days later, Valentine’s Day, February 14. Each day deserves recognition, but in considering both, plenty of memories surface.

The first American penny was designed by Benjamin Franklin and minted in 1787. Today’s penny with Abraham Lincoln’s image was first minted in 1909 and released on February 12th to commemorate the 100 anniversary of his death. 

Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith conceived the idea of Lost Penny Day in 1995. She says, “Petty change can make an astounding difference.” She recommends we take a few minutes on February 12 or any time to go through our homes to check the sofas, coat pockets, purses, drawers wherever we may have tossed a penny and gather as much loose change as we can find. She sees the day as a time that young children can turn the search into a treasure hunt.

Koopersmith suggests an alternative to spending the money on ourselves. She says, “If you feel your children are mature enough for it, you could go as far as taking them downtown to buy a cup of coffee and sandwich for that homeless man or woman who always sits on the same bench. Whatever way you and your children choose to spend the money you’ve found, make sure they understand just how much small gestures can mean to those in need. It is definitely a lesson they will never forget.”

Likewise, while we usually think about giving and receiving gifts on Valentine’s Day with one special person, the Day of Love may be the perfect time also to think about those in need.

Children may still want the collection of cards. Young loves, newlyweds and couples who have been married many years may still want that special gift selected just for them. But all of us may find giving to those in needs a rewarding experience, too.

The little ditty opening this column speaks of luck. While many scoff at such superstitions, the very idea of giving away our finds, our bounty, our love, may bless both giver and receiver. Find a penny… give it away…Happy Valentine’s Day.

Jamie Denty can be reached at jamiedenty@darientel.net. Please visit:  “From My Back Porch” at jldenty.wixsite.com/jamiedentycolumns. A “new” old column is published most Mondays