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100 Pennies

The streets were unusually empty downtown tonight.

I made my way home, my car rattling gently as I drifted beneath green and yellow lights. The Beaches' 'Blame Brett' trilled softly from the cellphone lying on the seat next to me and I remember staring blankly at a yellowed, dimly illuminated sign outside a church with the words 'Love is fragile, handle with care' scattered across it in crooked lines. It seemed like a very odd thing to see outside of a church, and I spent hours running the phrase over and over in my mind, trying to figure out why it bothered me so much.

I still genuinely belive that love is the strongest thing in the world, though the word is often misused, to the point that colloquially, it can mean very little. So what is exactly is love? I don't generally like slapping Bible verses on things to explain them, but I think regardless of creed or conviction, St. Paul describes it best in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Basically, love is the only thing that gives life and anything in it meaning or purpose, and it is always allied with what is good, right, and true. Additionally, John tells us, “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and instructs us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Another definition of love that encapsulates it nicely is from Dr. Brand in Interstellar when she states that "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space." I can think of a million more beautiful ways that I've heard it described by writers, painters and poets and I would say broadly speaking, most of mankind is in agreement that it's the strongest thing in the world, so love can't possibly be what's fragile. Trust is, however, and I think that may be closer to what the sign was getting at; something in the same wheelhouse of "a word is not a sparrow, you can't catch it once it flies away",  or Proverbs 18:21, etc. The sign probably had good advice- it's just not very well-worded.

I like to think most of us don't want to hurt or take advantage of anyone, but sadly, some individuals genuinely do, and when such a person abuses someone, they are doing far more than causing a single act of violence: they are permanently altering their victims and their futures forever. Once trust has been betrayed, it can be very difficult to rebuild, even years later with different people. It can also train people who have been hurt by those who are supposed to love and protect them to view abusive behaviors and relationships as normal or even affectionate, or it can lead them them to put up walls and give up on love altogether. I would even argue that it can make faith difficult, like walking across a rickity old bridge to get to the other side of a canyon, which is something I'm struggling to navigate myself. And yet, I do believe, and I know that life while doesn't make sense sometimes, He still works all things for the good of those that love Him.

It also follows that if God is love and all good, then nothing can be more blasphemous than hate or evil, because those are the opposite of Him. Most of us know what love is, but if you want to know what it isn't, just take the inverse of Corinthians 13:1-8 and you have it:

'Evil is not patient, evil is cruel. It envies, it boasts, it is always proud. It dishonors others, it is self-seeking, it is easily angered, and it always keeps record of wrongs. Evil delights in itself and reviles against the truth. Evil inflicts harm, never trusts, never hopes, and it will not persevere.'

The last line of that is immensely comforting, because like Sokka's boomerang, it means that whenever someone does something malicious, it will always come back to them. I remember smiling at the thought as I pulled into my parking lot.

As I headed up the cement stairs to my apartment, I heard a soft jingle as my boot scraped against something sounded metallic, which I instantly assumed to be a quarter or large washer. After shining my phone's flashlight on it, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see a tarnished gold dollar glinting back at me.

Generally speaking, I'm not superstitious, but I do have certain quirks when it comes to my attitude around luck, which is odd considering that I'm not particularly fortunate, unless you consider the fact that I'm still breathing and "only" missing a tooth to be lucky (compared to some people's stories, I suppose it is). Still, I carry two carved stone D20 dice with me at all times, and I have an odd fondness for pennies and lost coins, which in my mind are always good omens. If they're on tails, I cheat and kick them until they flip over. Also, the higher the monetary value, the greater the luck, so a nickel is 5x as fortunate as a penny, a dime would be 10x, and so on. A quarter would be enough to give me a cheery outlook for days, but I don't think I've ever found a gold dollar before. It's something that feels auspicious indeed. I know it's probably all in my head, but Sacagawea has spoken, and I like to believe that God sometimes sends little signs to let me know He's there, especially when He knows I'm struggling or having a rough day. Strange little coincidences follow me everywhere.

Once I got inside, I added the coin to the glass box containing my adventure fund, then settled at the table where several half-painted wooden lures lay, scattered across a sheet of aluminum foil, along with my brushes and a little tin box that contained all my prayers written on note cards. I've dated most of them, and usually go through them and burn them once I get an answer, regardless of if I like it or not, but there are still some I saved. Most of the ones I'd written when I first got my prayer tin weren't answered how I had wanted, but one was, and it was by far the most important. It also showed me why all the others couldn't be. In retrospect, it was probably the best thing that could have happened, especially given the circumstances.

I pondered this for a moment, then pulled a blank card from my pencil box and scribbled a new petition on the blue-lined cardstock before dating it and adding it to the others, feeling a smile tug at my lips as I did.

Something wonderful is coming. I didn't know what, but I'm quite certain it will be here soon, and whatever it is, it's going to be absolutely beautiful.


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