Dave and 200 Pennies

Without doing any research, I have to assume Dave is one of the more common male names in America. Doug certainly is the most important 4-letter name starting with D that comes to my mind, of course. Dave is a close second. A second, just to be clear.

Being Vice-President in this non-farm 4-D category is nothing to be ashamed of if you’re Dave, Dale, or Dick. To be in the same category with a Doug – any Doug – is nothing short of wonderful. MacArthur, Flutie, Fairbanks, … the magic of Henning and I welcome you into our group. Open arms and happy smiles …

… and a moderate amount of humility at times.

Seems fitting, on the day when a new President has been declared by the A. P., I am writing about the self-sacrifice of one man. The giving of a gift from a heart of a man without any expectation of anything in return. The America – personified in one man – I knew was here, but haven’t seen for some time. Benevolence in one man with nothing, compared to another who, seemingly, had everything but chose to serve only himself while giving the appearance of compassion for others.

Let me introduce Dave.

Dave is close to homeless. Whether or not he chooses to be this way, I’m not sure. His situation requires the social safety nets we, as a compassionate society, must provide. Those, like Dave, stricken with misfortune – either economic, emotional, or mental – must be cared for by us. Some in our community (associates and friends) tried to help and, understandably, have been frustrated by Dave’s cognitive unease, laziness, or incomprehension of his actual situation. So, we find our local community folks watching him go about town on his bike, collecting cans, sitting on a bench fake-playing a little Casio keyboard, or shuffling by on a cold winter’s day. This is his normal. Day. After. Day.

His day … intermixed among my busy, go-about days of money-making ventures. A maze of where-to-goes and what-to-do’s, not giving a single thought about anyone else with four letters in their name starting with a D – notably, anyone else who has no warm meal waiting for them at home or a soft sofa to sit on while watching commercials laden with products they may want to buy.

My life compared to a younger, less fortunate man’s life? Almost none. No gray area where our lives did intersect, really cross. I’ve known Dave a while. Being a “street vendor” in town, I was a convenient stop-by here and there for him. A chat every few weeks at his discretion – when he had something to say and then he was on his unshaven, over-dressed, way. Never a nuisance and always respectful, he respectfully begged for my attention, never money, and earned my respect.

All this to say, one day last week Dave paid for my $2 iced tea at breakfast without my knowledge. Whether it was all coins or dollars, I do not know. I wasn’t hungry that morning, so that’s all I ordered. I don’t know what Dave had in mind that morning if I would have ordered my normal breakfast. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The 200 pennies he sacrificed on my behalf was worth more than breakfast at the White House with any President.

I chose sacrificed on purpose. Ten minutes later, outside the very familiar window under which I sat, I saw Dave shuffle by – clear plastic bag in tow.

At that moment, I became a clear Vice-President of the 4-D name club. Dave showed buckets full of humility, grace, and compassion, with a simple $2 nod toward a guy who sees him as invisible most of the time.

I don’t know why Dave did it. I’m not asking him. To do so would take away the marvelous magic I want him to have. No assumptions are going to come forth from my fingers at this moment.

I wanted to acknowledge one simple act of generosity. To man who thought he had a life of important things, a gift given from one person who has a small amount of things to give in life can make a lot of cents all of a sudden.

To Dave and his 200 pennies: I thank you.

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