Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pennies from Heaven

I heard this story some time ago and I wanted to blog it. Problem is it's been a while and I can't recall who originated the story or even if I got all the details right, but it's still a good story:

A couple of people shared walks on occasion, discussing anything that suited them. One of the two made certain to stop anytime he discovered a dropped coin along the path. He would look at the coin a moment, then smile broadly and slip the currency into his pants pocket. Everytime he found a coin, he would repeat the same ritual - stop, pick it up, study the coin for a moment, smile, then slip the coin into his pocket.

After several such stops, curiousity overtook the companion and he had to ask why the apparent joy of finding currency that was sometimes only a penny. The coin collector explained, "Each time I find a coin, it's a reminder that God is thinking about me." Sensing the companion's confusion, the collector turned a coin over and pointed to the words, "In God We Trust." "It's stamped on the back of every coin," the collector said. "Doesn't matter the denomination, I'm in His thoughts."

Ever since I first heard that story, I make a special effort to retrieve any discarded coins I come across. I put them in a jar at home, and the money eventually finds its way to a local church. Both acts make me feel good - getting a chance to pick up the coin, and getting a chance to pass it on.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Old Hardware Store

I like going to Lowes or even Home Depot as much as anyone else who enjoys building projects. But there's just something about that small, family-owned hardware store that harkens to another era. I've been in a few that occupied old brick buildings with creaky wood floors so worn by traffic that you just have to wonder how thick the flooring is anymore. Others are in more modern structures, metal framed and tin roofed for durability. Most all of them have nails sold in bulk instead of in neatly packaged, windowed boxes. And if you just need one or two bolts to finish off a project, they'll usually tell you it's on the house, "just come back when you need something," they'll say.

That friendly service is hard to beat. Shortly after I moved to the town I still live in today, I had to replace a heating element in my hot water heater. I had a replacement element in-hand, having purchased it, then put off the project for no real reason. When the time came that everyone in my house was tired of rinsing in cold water after a nice, lukewarm shower, I set about replacing the element.

Now, if you've ever replaced one of those things, you know that the best tool to use to loosen the old one is, well, a hot water heater element wrench. It's not anything complicated, just a metal tube shaped at one end to receive the element nut and with slots for a cross piece on the other end. The cross piece makes the loosening and tightening process alot easier. So, the thing is, I couldn't find my wrench and had to buy a new one. Problem was, it was 6:30 on a Saturday night.

I called the local hardware store and asked how late they'd be open. Bob, the owner, told me he had actually already closed - at 5:00 pm - and that he was just finishing off some paperwork. He asked me what I needed and I told him. "Just come on down to the store," he said. "I'll look for you and open up. We'll get you squared away."

I was amazed. An hour and a half past closing on a Saturday night when old Bob would probably much rather be going out to dinner with his wife, he waited for me to show up and buy a six dollar tool to fix my hot water heater. Now that's service!

Sure, I still hang out at Lowes from time to time, and I buy a little lumber there. But when it came time to replace the whole hot water heater, I went to get one from Bob. And when I needed to rent a power washer, a twelve foot ladder and a set of floor jacks, Bob got my business. In fact, Bob's gotten a lot of my business over the years. And he's apt to get more. Not a bad trade off for opening up shop to sell a six dollar part. Oh, did I mention? Small town hardware store owners have excellent business savvy.