This year’s count-up was late, on purpose. I decided to wait until January because giving tends to slow way down right after the holidays. (Apparently people are hungry only from Thanksgiving until Christmas.)
Here’s what I accumulated between last November and yesterday:
- 21 quarters
- 62 dimes
- 25 nickels
- 157 pennies
A typical year’s take is usually no more than $20 and no less than $12, so $14.27 isn’t too bad. Notably absent this year was any denomination of paper money, which could mean that people are being more careful with their cash. Or maybe it means that another scavenger got there first.
As usual, I rounded up the amount. This year the food bank gets $30.
The spare-change safety net
Some people are entirely skeeved out by the idea of picking up money from sidewalks, parking lots, Coinstar return bins and vending machines. But as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not as though I carry the specie home in my mouth.
If gleaning change isn’t for you, then don’t do it. I still get a kick out of it, and it nicely extends my giving dollars.
The exercise also keeps me humble, reminding me of the days when I’d have to open the baby’s piggy bank to buy milk in the middle of the week. (The money always went back in on payday.) Even though my safety net was composed of pennies, nickels and dimes, the fact is that some people had no cushion at all.
When I was going broke during a divorce and back in school, sometimes I went to a Seattle nonprofit called North Helpline. Its food bank offered potatoes, beans, apples, a few canned goods, and all the bread and baked goods a person could carry.
I saw a lot of thousand-yard stares in line, people who looked completely exhausted and defeated. How they would have fed themselves – and the kids some held by the hand – without North Helpline?
Sometimes when I’m tempted not to pick up a coin, I remember those faces. And I stop, and stoop, and tuck it away for another year.