I believe most of us would like to know that we’ve touched other people is some kind of positive way. Life is short and it’s nice to know that something you said or did might get remembered. As a writer, I think I’m doing something important by keeping others’ stories alive and if, in the process, somebody chooses to remember me for that, well that’s good, too.
For all the slice of life vignettes I’ve shared here and in my blog, for all the everyday heroes’ praises I’ve sung or family characters I’ve celebrated, I could never have imagined that it might be a groundhog that would bring me some notoriety. Yes, a groundhog.
On January 31, 2014, I posted my little story Let Sleeping Groundhogs Lie on my blog. I was rudely awakened February 2nd, Groundhog Dog, by the blip of my cell phone alerting me to a new email message, 273 of them in fact. The alerts came in all day, and for weeks following that, each one notifying me that another new reader had found my story and was now following my blog. I discovered later that my blog host WordPress had promoted that particular story to all their bloggers in their Freshly Pressed section. I had suddenly caught the attention of some omnipotent editor in cyberspace and had received the blogging world’s version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Very nice!
At last count, I’ve picked up 702 new followers from across the globe as a result and I get one or two more new ones every day. They now represent 80 countries. The list is staggering: Germany, Egypt, Slovakia, Argentina, Trinidad, Japan, Netherlands, Iceland, Greece, Peru, Israel, Kenya, Luxembourg, Singapore, Greece. India, Brazil… I think Punxsutawney Phil would be mighty proud to know his fame is building because it is surely the intrigue of his lore and not my writing that has caused such an international stir.
It’s been nearly 40 years since I’ve had a world geography course and as I look at the names of countries these new readers represent, I’ve had to do a little Googling more than once. Do you know where the Isle of Man is located? How about Republic of Seychelles, Mauritius or Brunei Darussalam? Yeah, me neither. My ancient studies of the world didn’t cover those but I did find them on the map and know a little more about them now. I also know someone there now knows something about Phil.
There’s no doubt that Internet has compressed the world. As social media out-shouts traditional news sources, we now connect through channels that are conveniently pocket-sized and battery-powered. Facebook describes their connections in terms of friends; in the blogging world, we talk about our connections as our community. My blogging community has become surprisingly important to me.
Two weeks after the groundhog story started making its rounds, I had to come to terms with a completely impossible writing task, my husband’s obituary. What can you say in the width of a newspaper column that reflects someone’s entire lifetime or even encompasses 36 years of a relationship?
Friends and family continue to circle around us, holding us close, siphoning away a bit of our sadness at times and filling up the empty places at other moments. Our son told those who had gathered at our Celebration of Life service that if anyone truly wanted to honor his dad, they should continue to tell his stories. I plan to do that. We also asked friends to carry forth the ritual of the Gratitude Penny.
If you missed the related story I posted on my husband’s birthday in March, this is how it goes. Some people pick up lost pennies and make a wish. Not us. For many years, our family has picked up found pennies and expressed gratitude for something in our lives. My husband would often fill extra moments at restaurants, malls, etc.–usually while waiting on me – by walking through the parking lot looking for pennies. He nearly always found one. Our daughter often “plants” pennies in odd places for others to find as her own way to pay-it-forward.
In honor of Doug’s memory, I shared a version of this story at his Celebration of Life service and also on my blog. I asked that friends hold a coin in their hands while expressing gratitude for something in their lives they appreciate before giving it a toss for another treasure hunter to find. I wanted us all to be intentional in thinking of him for a moment and create a reason to smile. I asked friends to let me know where they tossed their pennies and what they appreciate.
The stories came rolling in. Gratitude pennies have been deliberately dropped at handicapped parking spaces, libraries, chapels, gas stations and convenience stores, Friends reported they are grateful for their families, their health, happy memories, and also the ability to let go of the past. A teacher even gave pennies to the students in her human development class and asked them to be part of this request. And oddly, friends tell me they are now finding pennies everywhere.
Thanks to my globe-trotting groundhog, our little ritual has been picked up in places outside the U.S., too. A woman in France wrote with a promise to drop a 20-cent piece in the carpark of the supermarket in Vire, Normandy, in gratitude for her husband having survived his surgeries. A Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova dropped a five bani piece in appreciation for her family and for our friendships. Visitors in Morocco left a half dirham piece on the steps of a school.
If you find a penny in your travels soon, maybe it was a friend of ours who left it there for you. If you don’t find one, toss one. You never know when someone else might need a reason to pause a minute and be grateful.
I would love to hear your gratitude penny tales . Comment here and I will continue to share our stories.