It all started about ten years ago when I was in Richmond, VA, on a weekend business trip. On Saturday morning I decided that my recent weight gain would have to be addressed, and I vowed to begin walking briskly before work on a daily basis to boost my activity level as I dieted.
As I strode out of the motel lobby and into the parking lot, I noticed a small, shiny object against the curb. Close inspection revealed that it was a dime that someone had lost.
Without thinking, I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I didn't think about that coin again until I returned to my room and felt the small disk next to my room key in my pocket.
I looked at it closely. It must have been on the street a very short time, I reasoned. The surface was smooth, unworn by the elements. The date was recent. I began to wonder how the little coin had been lost. Perhaps someone had a hole in his pocket. Perhaps someone pulled something from her pocket and the coin happened to tumble out inadvertently.
I wondered what stories that little coin could tell. Who had lost it? To whom had it belonged over the months between its birth at the U.S. Mint and now?
Oddly, those questions seemed to stay with me all day. That night, I decided to walk once again, this time in the glow of a Virginia full moon.
Now, if you have ever walked briskly on a daily basis, you know that it can be a downright boring chore. I thought that I would actively look for coins on the sidewalk and in the parking lots that made up my walking track. Perhaps that activity would aid in my battle against the boredom of walking.
Of course, I didn't expect to actually find anything at night, but there was a good moonglow that could reflect against metal, so I was hopeful.
Yes! Fifteen minutes into my trek, I spotted a glimmer in the gloaming---a penny!
From that day to this, I have walked on a daily basis, and I have broken the drudgery of my walks by searching for coins. Over time, I have begun to see these coins as "lost souls" begging for a home. I have found them in parking lots, on sidewalks, in streets and in the most unimaginable places.
If you look for them, they are there, silently pleading to be found and given a good home.
Most of the coins are, of course, pennies. Perhaps some folks think a penny has no real value and isn't even worth the energy required to bend down and pick it up. But there are also nickels, dimes and quarters lying around, waiting to be rescued.
Over the years, I have come to refer to these coins as "orphans". I keep them in a special bank called, of course, "the orphanage". Many of the orphans are pathetic in their physical appearance---worn and weathered, thinned by the elements, perhaps half of their original thickness. Many are so worn that you cannot read the date or any of the inscriptions on them. Some look to be brand new, shiny and proud.
My orphans come from probably half the states in the contiguous United States where I have traveled. My wife, Cindy, has also caught the bug, and she avidly searches for our lost souls when she travels with me.
Our favorite place to search is the French Quarter in New Orleans. Look closely under the benches at Jackson Square. Keep your eyes on the ground on Bourbon Street. Where you find one coin, your chance of finding another nearby is excellent. Some days you will find none. Other days will yield multiple finds.
Of course, we can never spend our orphans. They are special, just like people who are lost and then miraculously found. And, like people, the true value of each of our orphans is the same, whether it is a quarter or a penny. Some are worth a worn out penny. Some are worth 25 times that much.
But, like people, they are all lost souls, kindred spirits, now found, in a warm, safe place. They, like human beings, have had the chance of the miracle of being saved. And they will never again experience the indignity of having no respect, of being lost and useless in a wealthy society.