Do you stoop to pick up pennies? It hardly seems worth the effort. Proof of this attitude lays in the abundance of pennies I have seen in the parking lot of the Bachelor Officers Quarters in which I am staying while working at Naval Base Point Loma.
Probably the first coin minted in the United States, the penny has been around since the chain cent was issued in 1793, two hundred and twenty years ago. In 1990, 2001, and 2006 legislation was introduced to eliminate the penny. The debate continues. Since 2007 the cost of the raw materials for making the penny has exceeded its value. As of February 2011, they were 2.4¢. In comparison, it costs about 11¢ to make a nickel.
A survey conducted last year indicated that 67% of Americans favored keeping the penny. More than three-quarters of these respondents thought businesses would raise prices if the penny were gone.
I have more transcendent reasons for keeping the penny:
• In an increasingly digital world, the penny is tactile. And while much of our world is tangible, the penny is an object that everyone in our country can afford to have.
• Pennies are beautiful: delicately engraved, bright and shiny when new, tarnishing as they get old.
• They prompt us to remember the past, those who have done great things for our country.
• Despite our differences and disagreements, the penny brings to mind that we are all Americans. Its depiction of our de facto national motto, E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One,” reminds us to be authentic to our distinctiveness and to aspire to be united too.
• Finally, the penny reminds us that what we think about and how we treat the lowliest in our society is up to each of us as individuals. If we drop a penny on the ground it is up to us to retrieve it rather than letting it be run over and scarred. No one will come behind us to fulfill this responsibility. Also, when we find a discarded penny, even though we did not drop it, we can take a moment of our time to reach down, pick it up, put it in our pocket, and later return it to circulation where it rightly belongs.
While I am guilty of having passed by many a penny, I do not do so anymore. I stoop to pick up pennies. Do you?
Question – How would you feel if pennies were no longer minted?
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