On a Dime


It’s a moment that any child who has grown up in a traditional church setting will quickly recognize--that point in the service when the offering plate is steadily advancing toward your pew and mother is still riffling around in her purse, frantically digging for coins and dollar bills to disperse among her children’s waiting hands.

Only now, I’m the mother.

I don’t know why I haven’t yet gotten my act together yet. Every Sunday the ushers pass the offering plate and every Sunday my children hold out their hands to me. And still, I routinely find myself playing Minute to Win It. Your challenge: find enough money to distribute between three children so that each of them can put something in the offering plate by the time the ushers reach your pew. You have sixty seconds. And… Go!

To be fair, I have learned a few things over the years. I’ve learned that the denomination of coins must be roughly equal in order to avoid protests. At the same time, I’ve also learned that in the cosmic realities of childhood, two quarters do not equal ten dimes (“No fair! She got more than me!”). And forget the widow’s mite--according to my children, God doesn’t want pennies. Still knowing all this, I routinely find myself caught unprepared. It’s particularly problematic now that my husband’s pastoring again and we sit only three rows from the front.

But this last Sunday, something happened. In the process of sorting through my coins, mentally calculating and dividing the little change I had, I noticed a coin that I didn’t recognize. It was the size of a dime, but slightly thinner and the profile was definitely not a Roosevelt. Initially I thought it was a foreign coin that had simply gotten mixed up in some return change. So I paused to take a closer look. This coin was worn, thin—almost elegant. And although I couldn’t make out all the script, I quickly realized that it was no foreign coin. No, this stranger in my wallet was United States currency. In fact, it was a dime. From 1918.

I quickly passed along some other money to the kids and handed the dime to my husband for safe keeping. As the dust settled, I sat there taking it all in. Without warning, I had unintentionally become the owner of a small bit of history. Later I discovered that this particular dime is known as a Mercury or Winged Liberty dime and unlike today’s coins, is predominantly silver. Still, even in my pew that morning, I could tell that my dime was no museum show piece—no this dime was a working dime. A dime that had made it way through the masses, serving those who owned it faithfully, and nearly one hundred years later had found itself in my wallet. And the whole time, I hadn’t even known it was there.

Suddenly, I felt both very small and yet oddly connected to the larger scope of humanity. Had this dime—this very dime that I held in my hands— passed through the hands of another mother? Who was its original owner? What work, what sweat and labor, had first earned this newly minted coin? And after that, what route had it taken?

Had it fed a hungry belly for just one more day during the Depression?

Did it buy a midnight cup of coffee for a GI returning from WWII, grateful to be back home but unsettled by his experiences?

A decade later, was it the price of a candy bar for a little one thrilled to see daddy coming through the door from work?

Or was it the dime that paid for that phone call from a child who had wandered a bit too far and simply wanted to come home?

I don’t know. But unexpectedly, in the scope of five minutes on a beautiful Sunday morning in October, I could trace the hand of Providence. It ran through the worn profile of Liberty and the now nearly illegible “In God We Trust.” It is a Providence that controls the fates of nations even as He nurtures and guides the individual lives of those caught in the whirlwind. A Providence that brought this dime to my wallet without my even knowing it and in doing so, offered a ten cent reminder of His hand, of the grand scheme of His plan, and the truth that none of us--even dimes--escape His watchful eye.

*Image from http://coinauctionshelp.com/How_To_Grade_Mercury_Dimes.html