It was a blistering summer day and I was tired – a bone-aching, muscle-throbbing, head-hanging tired. We had been working on this project for at least three weeks now and it wasn’t going as smoothly as I liked. When I first started in the commercial office furnishings industry, installation of the cubicles was finish work. We typically came in when all the other contractors were done and gone. But then came concurrent engineering, a project management paradigm that took hold in the late 1980s and remains with us to this day.
In concurrent engineering, the final product is produced in tandem instead of in series. What this meant for furniture installers was that whereas in the past we could come into buildings nearly completed with access to helps such as elevators and amenities such as restrooms, we were now moving our freight through windows using boom lifts and having to use the port-a-johns in the sweltering heat. Making this job even more difficult was the product. Standard panel thickness for most cubicle systems was two inches. The product we were working with was three inches thick. This meant less product could fit on our carts and we had to make more frequent trips to and from out staging sites. And it was heavy. Add to that the daily conflicts with other contractors and moving finished product through a construction zone and you get a good picture of the grinding wheel that had worn me down.
As I made my way across the freshly asphalted parking lot (did I mention it was hot? I swear, the blacktop seemed to burn right up through the soles of my boots!), I noticed a penny on the pavement. “I am not,” I said to myself, “bending over to pick up a penny!” I had herniated my L5-S1 disk twice during my furniture career. Bending over was generally on my things-to-avoid list. I kept shuffling towards the van. Fifteen feet from my objective, a silver glint caught my eye. I looked down to discover a dime on the ground. Tired and hurt as I was, a dime was still ten times more than a penny, so I picked it up and put it in my pocket.
The drive back to the shop was uneventful. I stowed my tools and filled out the day’s paperwork. My labors for the day complete, I headed to my car only to discover that I had low air in one of my tires. Perfect. This was around the time that Exxon had rolled out their “driver human” marketing campaign extolling their service oriented virtues of providing free air and water that cars occasionally need. The tire wasn’t flat, so I drove to the Exxon station on the way home and pulled up to the air pump. Unfortunately, I got there before the corporate memo about taking care of the “driver human” had arrived. Air still cost $0.25.
No problem. I dug through my pockets and retrieved the dime. I scoured the car and put all my coins together. My liquid net worth at that moment added up to a whopping twenty-four cents. That’s right, folks, I was one penny shy of getting air in my tire. At that moment, I felt the Lord say in my heart, “Son, when I give you a penny, don’t turn your nose up at it. I know what you need.” He definitely had my attention. What was I to do? What I usually do when I get in trouble after disregarding a blessing from God: I went looking for my brother to bail me out. He had decided to stop off for a game of pool at a nearby watering hole. I walked over and got a quarter from him. I could always count on Red to get me out of a jamb!
Since that day many years ago, I’ve seen some dramatic financial miracles in my life. There was the time that my wife discovered that someone had anonymously deposited $10,000 into our bank account. (It sat there for at least a week before she realized it. Sure that our balance was just over a thousand dollars, it took a bit for her brain to see the additional zero and realize its implications.) I remember the day that a van dealership rolled up to our house with a full-sized, eight-passenger van with a red bow on the grill. They handed us the invoice stamped “PAID” and an unsigned card that said, “God bless you for all you do!” And I would be remiss not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars in debt that we’ve seen forgiven. But the one I recall most often is that singular penny from heaven.
The Creator of the Universe is in the business of personal attention. He truly does care. And He’s just as willing to help you with your penny ante needs as He is with your seemingly unsurmountable challenges. What He reminded of me that day was to be thankful for all His gifts regardless of the size we may attribute to them.