A penny’s worth

by Jennifer on March 22, 2008

penny-2.jpgOne day last fall, I sat outside the mall with my children, in an area with a fountain and grass just outside the bookstore. It’s a nice area for letting the kids play while I look through the books I’ve just bought.

Boy and Girl wanted to throw pennies into the fountain, so I gave them each two, and they ran off to make their wishes. A few moments later, my son came back to me. He still had one penny clutched in his hand. “What’s the name again of the one in our family who’s sick?” he asked.

Just that week, my uncle had been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, at the age of 51. (When we heard the news, I was with my children, and they wanted to know why I was sad. So I let them know that he was sick, but didn’t say what the illness was, knowing they were too young to process that information unless it became necessary.)

“You’re thinking of Uncle K,” I answered. Boy seemed to take in this information and, still holding his last penny, ran off to make his wish. A wish so clear and full-hearted that it broke my heart.

It was more than a penny’s worth of wish, I knew that much.

I sat there and cried, moved by the sweetness of my boy, who would spend his remaining wish to ask for his uncle to be well. His soul is so tender and giving, and I worry all the time that he will lose that sweetness. And then at other times I worry what hurt awaits him if others take advantage of it.

But that day, I didn’t worry at all. I just reveled in the love of that one small act. His last penny, and the one wish that was worthy of it. (I would have given him more, but he didn’t know that.)

Now, all these months later, I’m very happy to report that my uncle is doing well and his prognosis is good. There have been a number of complications, but he has great doctors, and a good amount of luck on his side.

Tonight, I answered my phone to hear the voices of my aunt and uncle on the other end, saying they were visiting here and wanted to stop by while they were in town. They were about 30 minutes away, which gave me time for a whirlwind de-cluttering. It was a lovely surprise, and I was so glad to see them both. My uncle looks good, and seemed to be feeling well. He and my aunt have always looked young, and the cancer hasn’t changed that for him (or for her, with the stress of it), so far. He hasn’t lost his hair yet, but that may change soon, with the next course of chemo.

We talked for a couple of hours. My conversations with them are always very animated and are peppered with old family stories. I even heard a few that were new to me. As always, we laughed a lot.

I had forgotten in all these months to tell them the story about Boy and his wish, but I told them tonight. I couldn’t get it out without tearing up, but it was all right, since they did, too. Maybe it’s better to hear a story like that when things are looking brighter.

Of course, I am not about to say that his wish did anything more than soothe my heart. With cancer or any serious illness, the odds can go any number of ways, many of them very bad. A coin tossed into a fountain doesn’t alter any course or destiny.

But, still.

The Boy couldn’t even buy a penny’s worth of candy, these days, with his one penny. And the way I see it, his penny bought a lot.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

HRH March 22, 2008 at 5:37 am

That is an amazingly sweet story. I am so glad you had a chance to share it with your uncle.


Nicole P March 22, 2008 at 6:10 am

Aren’t children just wonderfully sweet? This was a great story! Thanks for sharing. And I am glad that your uncle is doing better.


Treasia March 22, 2008 at 7:44 am

What a truly beautiful story you have shared. Who says a penny doesn’t buy much these days.


Crazycath March 22, 2008 at 8:44 am

Oh that is beautiful. And you know? a wish can be a prayer and I think your boy’s honest prayer was heard and answered.
I think that penny did a lot more than soothe your heart….

Beautiful post.


Meg March 22, 2008 at 9:42 am

Gosh Jennifer…that was a beautiful story…hug your son for me!


aims March 22, 2008 at 9:50 am

A truly beautiful story!

Came here via David’s blog – and I’m glad I did!


Maggie May March 22, 2008 at 10:16 am

I came over via David’s because you have been nominated by several people. You really deserve that honour as your story was extremely moving. Need a tissue!


Jenn @ Juggling Life March 22, 2008 at 10:37 am

I love stories like this.


Dave March 22, 2008 at 10:41 am

I found your blog via David McMahon’s site. That’s a really wonderful story, and I hope your uncle continues to feel better.

Thanks for visiting my site as well…have a great weekend! : )


DP March 22, 2008 at 12:30 pm

What a sweet boy you have!

He reminds me of my son, when he ws young. My daughter was in the hospital a lot then (and still is). One particular time she was in the ICU with asthma and pneumonia. We parents were at our wits’ end with worry.

My son came to me and asked to borrow my rosary beads. He also asked if I could tell him how to pray a rosary (he was quite young). I handed him the “cheat” card I had for myself (not being a cradle Catholic). He went off to his little room and prayed. Within 12 hours our daughter was out of ICU and doing much better.

I don’t know if it’s the power of prayer or the sincerity of it that makes the difference. I can tell you that my now 20-year-old son is every bit as loving as he always was. Life hasn’t ruined him.

I hope yours stays that way, too.

Peace – D


liv March 22, 2008 at 12:44 pm

that is a sweet, sweet boy!


Daryl E March 22, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I welled up reading this .. it seems to be you are doing something very right in the way you are raising those kids .. 😀


Brenda March 22, 2008 at 3:57 pm

It’s not the wish, but the love and kindness behind the wish. The faith of children is so strong. The love of children is so enduring, not asking for anything in return. The thoughtfulness of children is beautiful to behold. So much about children is there to remind us who we still need to be.


ByrningBunny March 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm

This was a beautiful story. I found your site from the authorblog where you have been nominated for story of the day. Deservedly.


Jenny,Bloggess March 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

This totally made me sniffly. Beautiful.


Kimberly March 22, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Beautiful story and so well told. You are a wonderful writer!


Hatchet March 22, 2008 at 9:29 pm

That was so very sweet.

I think I’ve gotten something in my eye….


Jules~ March 22, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I love the faith of children. They think in black and white absolutes. It is either right or wrong to them. If somethig is broken, fix it. Where us grownups on the otherhand think in so many shades of grey. Our minds get cluttered with stories and such.
I am so glad that your uncle is doing better and you can all make more memories together.


Tootsie Farklepants March 22, 2008 at 10:34 pm

You’re raising a very compassionate individual. I’m glad to hear that your uncle is doing better!

Happy Easter!


Carolyn March 22, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Sorry if this becomes a duplicate. Seems my first comment didn’t go through.

Wow wow wow. Beautiful post. I’m so glad I found your blog via authorblog.

“Boy” is obviously a wonderful child with a warm and compassionate heart. You should give yourself a pat on the back because children do what they see, not what they are told. You are obviously setting a kind and loving example for him to follow.

My thoughts are with your uncle… best wishes to him.

Heading over to David’s to ‘second’ the nominations…

ps – thanks for the lovely happy anniversary comment.


Angela March 23, 2008 at 12:24 pm

OH, this is so sweet. I agree…his heart is huge. It must be hereditary, yes.


JCK March 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Yes, it bought SO much. Lovely story on boy. These little boys, they break our hearts with their tenderness.


Sandy March 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm

What a beautiful thing. I am glad your Uncle is doing well.


Lisa Milton March 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm

I’m sold on that boy of yours.

(Glad your Uncle is doing well, especially his spirits. Makes all the difference.)


dragonfly April 1, 2008 at 7:06 am

You have a very sweet boy.

And I’m glad your uncle is doing well…and glad that you could share that story with him.


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