05/11/2010 12:43 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Makes Cents to Me Doesn't Make Cents to Everyone

The debate about whether or not the penny should continue to be produced and used in this country has been an ongoing one, but never did I realize that I held such a passionate opinion until I witnessed a new friend toss one into a garbage pail.

Khoi-Nguyen Truong copyright 2007

I was walking ahead of him when I heard a clink. I hesitated, because I didn't want him to think I was a total control freak, but I couldn't hold back my curiosity.

"What did you just throw away?" I asked.
"You just threw something into the trash can. What was it?"
"Oh, a penny."
"I always throw pennies away. There's no point in keeping them."
I started to feel my chest tighten and my face flush.
"You always throw away pennies?! Are you serious? Please promise me you won't ever throw away another penny. Please promise me. Please."
"Why? So that I can carry them around all day? I hate pennies. What am I going to do with them?"
"Give them to me! Put them in a bowl when you get home! It's called savings! Pennies are wishes. Pennies are dreams. Please, please just promise me that you won't throw away any more pennies."
He shrugged. "Okay."

The least he could do, I thought, was to throw them on the street for someone else to find. I always pick up pennies on the street, even if it's raining and in a puddle. It makes my day. I look at the year, hoping it's my birth year, and then, I don't know, just for the heck of it, I make a wish. If someone can throw a penny into a fountain and make a wish, I figure I can make a wish with one coming out of the water.

About a week after the incident (which I told a bunch of my friends about, and they thought it was weird too -- one even told me she thought it might be illegal, coins being property of the government and all), my friend saw my coin dish and asked me jokingly, "Oh, the famous coin jar. What did you do with the last one when it filled up?"

"Actually," I told him, "I put it into my nephew's college fund." Which was the truth. He didn't have much to say. He reached into his pocket and added a handful of change to the jar.

I hold fast to my belief: Pennies are dreams.