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  • Writer's picturePhilip Drucker

Communique "Nickels From Heaven" 11-17-2021

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” –Yogi Berra

How many of you know what the value of a nickel is? I can tell you for a fact that the answer to that question depends on whether you have five cents or not. If you do, and that’s what you need to buy whatever product or service you need, you are in my opinion, at a minimum well-off, and if you have money to spare, even better than well-off, if not outright rich.

However, if you have a nickel when you need a nickel, that will not teach you the true value of a nickel. It’s when you don’t have a nickel, or five pennies, or anyone willing to lend you another nickel, that the true worth of the coin with Jefferson’s face on it would truly be revealed.

For my nickel, the best description of what it feels like to get the blues is to have no money honey and the rent has yet again come due. It’s not that you are working hard, or not working at all.

So where did I learn the value of a nickel? Well, it came from an early elementary school experience I suffered through surely on a weekly basis and as it turned out, as often as not. I’ll give you a hint. It was in the school lunchroom/cafeteria and it involved the Friday “spaghetti” day, elbow macaroni covered in “meat” sauce that at least looked like hamburger, but not quite, that I later learned was mostly “hamburger helper” that didn’t help anything that I could identify as tasty or even gastronomically desirable, except perhaps the perception of “more” hamburger for your buck, or I guess in those days, nickel.

Of course, if I am following my logic, none of that mattered as on Fridays, unlike fish stick Wednesday or what I called an approximation of Meatloaf (who knows what it was) Thursday or whatever it was they served on Monday and Tuesdays, important information at the time but now long forgotten, “spaghetti” as opposed to bringing a bagged lunch was what I wanted and in those days, the cost for elementary school bliss was 45 cents.

And so, every Friday, I would wait and see if my parents had collected the nine nickels it would take to pay for a happy ending to yet another miserable week (I hated school). That’s right. My parents collected nickels during the week and more often than not I paid for lunch with nickels. I still remember stacking and unstacking them repeatedly to keep myself occupied during class. Used to drive my 6th grade teacher crazy.

Oh, occasionally, I received a dime or two, but very rarely. I don’t recall receiving any quarters at all, and a dollar bill was something I would have to wait a few more years until my parents clawed their way out of abject poverty and into lower-middle class semi-indigence. Again, wealth is all about how much you got, versus how much you need.

And every Friday, depending on how many nickels, or any combination of change equaling 45 cents, but mostly nickels, made the difference between Spaghetti Friday and “I hate my parents” Friday, a feeling that usually spilled into the weekend. Some weeks I was rich, and some weeks I was poor, so yes, I feel confident I understand the value of a nickel, as in a nickel may not seem like a lot of money, but it is when you don’t have one.

Yet all was not as bleak as it may seem for even from a young age I never wanted to be “rich” meaning, having a bunch of money that I was never going to use sitting in a bank account on shore, off shore, you name it, I didn’t want it. The reason as it turns out was another blessing from the Old Testament, in this case a story about Moses.

Did you know Moses had a lisp? Therefore, his brother Aaron gave practically all the speeches Moses is assumed to have delivered, but he didn’t. Did Aaron speak for Moses? Certainly, but Moses it turns out was not a great orator.

For early in his life, as an infant, Moses was given a test. He was offered the choice between choosing a handful of hot fire coals, mostly black I imagine, and sparkly, shiny, child friendly and highly attractive to children gold and jewels.

If Moses chose the jewels, he was to be adjudged, to be wicked because of his “obvious” lust for riches, wealth and greed. If he chose the coals, his life was to be spared. Naturally Baby Moses saw the gold and reached for it when an angel pushed his hand aside and made him grab the hot coal.

Moses then put his hand in his mouth for relief but burned his lips and tongue to the degree he suffered a permanent speech impediment, now and forever being “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).

I loved this story from the first time I heard it. Even at my young age, probably around five, but no older than seven or eight, it was reassurance that, well, as I later heard it expressed, all that glitters is not gold and it is often the hidden value.

In Moses’s case the gift being no less than continued life, contained within a lump of plain, ordinary, offering the true riches this world has to offer, for anyone who wished to see beyond the glitzy surface of a new car, house, or otherwise overly expensive but basically useless, flashy objects that do little more than attract hollow and empty people, furnishing them with nothing but a gold plated false veneer of luck and abundance, hiding an otherwise empty heart, bitter mind, and closed soul.

Now, add onto that if you can imagine the first time I had Bar-Be-Que. On top of being yummy, I was fascinated by you guessed it, the hot black, tinged with red, all turning chalky and white, Kingston Briquettes. I must say I never did touch one, but the thought of trying to draw an angel out into the open did cross my mind, and more than once.

On just such a day, I had BBQ Chicken, corn and assorted vegetables to boot. I also had access to fire coal and a quest to fulfill, that of course I never did, find me an angel, and go from there. As for me? Why, life was good and at that moment, I was rich.

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