Pennies From Heaven – Revelations on Wealth

pennies 3To recall the first time picking up a penny is easy. The simple reason; it had taken a lifetime to do so.

Just a boy in Springtime, walking down our sidewalk on 65th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I can vividly remember reaching down to pluck up a shining penny that glistened in the sun before suddenly and abruptly being sharply admonished, “Leave that there! That doesn’t belong to you!”

Immediately, I snapped back as if to remove the wrong-doing and not have it logged into my account. Regardless, in an instant, shame and confusion had struck.

Many years later, as a man, I had another chance encounter with a likewise isolated and overlooked penny. Noticing this coin and picking it up was admittedly a big deal bringing with it certain personal revelations that I’d like to share with you.

The First Penny:


Having just gotten off the elevator at the tenth floor of the Trump Towers to teach a piano lesson, I just happened to look down, and there was it was, a gleaming penny on the carpet. The hallway was empty. I gazed at this Abe Lincoln for a brief moment and then continued towards my student’s apartment at the end of the corridor.

During the walk, I remembered the famous Warren Buffet penny story. The account begins; one day Mr. Buffet was in an elevator with a handful of young businessmen. They all had noticed a penny on the elevator carpet, except for Warren. He looked down, saw the One Cent Coin, picked it up, put it in his pocket and merrily declared, “The beginning of my next billion!”

Having known of this story for years, I notwithstanding had never been able to look at an abandoned penny in this way.

Didn’t this coin belong to someone else? …a goody-two-shoes social contrarian

After all, I didn’t earn it! …the product of a blue-collar upbringing?

Or, I’d think to myself that I’d leave the penny there for someone who would unquestionably need it more than myself.  …Me, the patron saint of the poor? 

Or, “The ground is dirty and so was the penny.” Another Felix Unger, perhaps?

Felix Unger - The Odd Couple

Felix Unger – The Odd Couple

You get the idea; I could come up with more reasons and excuses to leave a coin laying there than to pocket it and move on.

Needless to say, I left the penny there and taught the piano lesson. After, on my way back to the elevator, I noticed that the penny was still there. Hmm. Someone else must have seen this sparkling copper since my first viewing?

I further conjectured that feasibly the person who dropped this penny was aware of it and was just too lazy or burdened to bend over and pick it up?

Conceivably, one cent wasn’t worth their effort towards retrieving it?

Maybe, in a cosmological sense, this penny was meant for me? Once again, my boyhood confusion was revisited.

Resolved to win a solution, I reasoned, “If taking up this penny is the right thing to do, then I’ll know it immediately, shouldn’t I? Either it will feel good or bad, right or wrong.”

So, I gave it one more survey, reached down and picked it up. Instantly, I got a zing, a lifting excitement! Accompanying this pocket stuffing was an epiphanic moment. Was this penny meant for me?!  A surging tide of thoughts and images ensued.

– Perhaps, I am occasionally entitled to having some things come easy for me?

– Maybe, not all credits require intense effort and hard work?

– Could all of my life’s lessons be directly in front of me and all that’s required is that I notice them?

– Should I revisit and question everything imparted to me about wealth?

– What beliefs and issues are presently holding me back, keeping me down?

Perhaps, on occasion, opportunity and good fortune are there for the gathering – like the penny? I’ve always thought that if a reward or a break didn’t come from hard work, it wasn’t authentic or sincere. Was I wrong, again? Could opportunities be staring at us all the time?

The Second Penny:

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine


Blue skies and cool temperatures –  It was another perfect Spring day in NYC. We decided to stroll up Amsterdam Avenue to our old neighborhood. We walked over to The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine and across the way have lunch at one of our old favorite family-style Italian restaurants, V&T Italian Cuisine and Pizzeria at 1024 Amsterdam Ave. (between 110th and 111th streets – (212) 666-8051)

It had been about six years since we had last seen Aldo, now 72 years young. He is one of the most soulful people you’ll ever meet. He was was working the entire room, which is always full, and on this day, the outside tables as well!  Serving all of the customers without help! There is never a busboy. He looked healthy but tired on many levels. Aldo is a testimony to the best of us – that it’s not what you do in life, but the attitude that you do it with that defines one’s character.



Of course, everything is delicious on the menu. We love the eggplant parmigiana heroes. They are generous enough for two to share, which my wife and I did. We also ordered a “small pie” – that’s Brooklynese for a plain cheese pizza.

Back to the penny. On our way home, down Amsterdam, a very straight avenue with considerable foot traffic, I noticed up ahead a half dozen, or so, men hanging out in front of the Spanish barber shop listening to meringues on a boom-box.

There was a shimmering new penny on the sidewalk.  This coin must have been there for quite some time. It was sparkling! The men must have noticed it, too bright to miss. As we approached, I glanced over; all were gazing off in different directions, paying us no mind.

So, I thought I’d brazenly try my little experiment one more time. I bent down and swooped up the coin. Yes! There it was, that good-ole feeling once again!

One man, the best-dressed, noticed the act but was unfazed, with his mind seemingly occupied with other thoughts. I found it interesting that likely hundreds had passed up on the penny.

I gifted the shiny new penny to our little girl who had taken my procurement in. She beamed.

Taking in the gorgeous day, my beautiful wife, and adorable daughter with her new penny, I thought to myself, “Everything I need is right here in front of me!” In the words of Warren Buffett, “This is the beginning of my next billion!”


Pennies closePersonal Revelations on Wealth:


1. Money itself, even a penny, has energy, current or flow and implied power. It’s not only what it can procure, how it can increase or multiply through compound interest and investment, but also how it can change lives.

2. Abundance and the attainment of wealth need not be a struggle.

3. Survival and the harvesting of wealth, sustenance, and nourishment are within our DNA and capacity as a species. Wealth is neither good or bad; it is a part of the natural order.

4. The ability to receive and feel worthy are essential ingredients to attaining wealth.

5. Revisit what society’s, mentors’ and parents’ language and thoughts are on wealth and to discern and recognize what we have incorporated into our belief systems as unquestioned truths.

6. Opportunity can be accepted, even if not earned from intense labor and effort.

7. Question and review the reasons or excuses that I am making in my life as to what road blocks or hindrances I’ve placed and uncover why I may not be moving forward, advancing, or evolving.

8. Awareness and gratefulness are essential elements to appreciating the immaterial wealth that is now in our lives and affords us the assurance and presumption to reach for the pennies in the days to come with graciousness and humility.

9. To approach life realizing that we are already wealthy and can step forward living without the feeling that we lack something or feel in need.

10. Therefore, in our dealings, we will naturally come from a position of strength.

11. There is no imperative ever to behave in any other way but our truth. There is no pressure to pander, suck-up, or change who we are for anyone; because of our desire for opportunities. We are already holding the wealth we require.

12. With this basis or foundation of profusion and bounty, we can now proceed to add to our abundance.

13. When handing the coin to my daughter, I realized that real, genuine wealth possesses the munificence to give it away!

14. Wealth imparts us with a supplementary power to make our world a better place.

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James Finn

Author: James Finn

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