Some people have little use for a penny. You can find them strewn around in parking lots, in stores and most every other place. But I have great respect for pennies.
Recently, Russell and I were clerking in the hatchery bookstore. The store was full of kids from one of the schools in McDonald County. The kids must have been told there was a giftshop at the hatchery because they all seemed to have money.
As I was running the cash register, a little boy came with an item to buy. It was an inexpensive item, and he pulled out a sack with change. Even though there were several other kids in line to pay, he carefully and slowly began counting out his money.
The money was mostly nickels and dimes that he had gotten out of his piggy bank. Finally, he got within 10 cents of the cost of the item. There were only pennies left. Carefully, he started counting the pennies. He had exactly 10. He pushed them to me over the counter with the biggest smile and the happiest face you could imagine. It certainly brought a smile to my face when I thought of him probably putting those pennies in his bank one at a time, and having enough to buy something for himself.
Then, just a week later, another incident happened at the bookstore. Dave Hendrix came in to see Russell and me and just as he did a woman came in the front door. Usually Janice is there to greet people, but she had just gone to lunch so there was no one to say hello. The lady went onto into the museum, and I forgot about her as I talked to Dave.
Russell walked through the museum and spoke to her and told her about some of the exhibits.
Just as Dave left, the lady stopped at Janice' desk and dropped some coins in the donation box. I saw and heard the coins dropping and it sounded like more than usual.
I spoke to the woman and asked if she had enjoyed her visit. She said we had a nice place. I then asked the question I try to ask everyone. I asked her where she was from.
Her answer took me back.
She said she had come to Neosho to take care of her mother, but said that she and her brother "got into it" so she was basically living on the street.
The lady was very clean, her clothes were clean, her hair was clean and nicely combed.
Then the lady said that she had put a donation in the box … all the money she had left … maybe 10 or 11 pennies, she said.
My first thought was to give the money back to her, but I thought better of it. I thanked her for the donation and as she turned to leave, I told her to come back anytime.
Many people put money in the donation box — some as much as a 20 dollar bill. But even a 20 is not as special as those 10 or 11 pennies. If you are Biblical, you know about the widow's mite. I think I witnessed such a thing.
Kay Hively writes a weekly column for the Daily News.