I’m sure that everybody has had some very rough times in their lives, when it has felt like you were sitting on the floor, devastated, thinking things surely could not sink any lower…then the rug gets pulled out from under you and you realize that that rug was the only thing keeping you from doing another free-fall downward.
But sometimes at one of those lowest points, somebody will unexpectedly do something or say something that will soothingly help to heal all of the hurts and the wounds that the world has been putting on your shoulders lately.
That person may not even be aware that they had so significantly and positively touched your life and made it better. That is what happened to me in 2002.
May 12, 2002 was a rainy, gray and dreary day and the weather perfectly matched my mood and my life at that time.
I had become unemployed several months before and I wasn’t sure when or if I would be able to collect unemployment compensation payments.
Michigan’s economy was so horrible at that time that it was not unusual to discover that a single part-time job opening would have 1,000 people, including me, applying for it.
So I was clutching every spare penny I had, trying to stay afloat financially, but I was getting very, very exhausted bailing the water out of my rapidly sinking ship.
My daughter, Tara, had moved back home after her high school boyfriend had broken up with her and she was trying hard to find any kind of a job as well.
That meant that my mother, Tara and I were living in our Flushing Township home on just my mother’s Social Security income and her widow’s allotment of my dad’s General Motors pension.
We normally kept our huge chest freezer, our second refrigerator, and our pantry shelves in the basement well-stocked with food. But our dwindling income had caused those extra food items to be slowly consumed and now, just like in that old nursery rhyme, Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards were becoming quite bare.
May 12, 2002 was Mother’s Day. It was especially important for Tara and I to make it festive and wonderful out of the love, gratitude and appreciation for my mother who was helping us as much as she could.
Tara and I had pooled the meager contents of both of our wallets to buy groceries to make a special Mother’s Day dinner. We had a combined total of a few cents over $20. This was going to require some serious coupon hunts and careful scrutiny of the several local grocery stores’ weekly sale prices to achieve our goal.
I was so despondent and depressed. I saw nothing positive happening in the immediate future. Tara and I would somehow manage to put together a nice dinner for today, but what about the next day? And the day after that?
I resolved to not let the dreary day and my even drearier worries ruin Mother’s Day so I put on my happy face as Tara and I began to grocery shop.
Our last stop was going to be at Bueche’s Food World in downtown Flushing. As we got out of my car, I noticed that the back driver’s side tire was almost flat. I must have run over a nail or something at some point.
Cussing silently to myself, I chose to not mention this latest problem to Tara, but for me, that was the next to last straw that was coming very close to breaking the camel’s back.
My car was our only transportation. We lived out in the country where there was no bus service or any other kind of public transportation. Properly inflated tires were an absolute necessity.
I had to double my efforts to maintain my happy face. I must have been pretty successful because Tara didn’t suspect a thing.
We walked out of Bueche’s with only a few pennies to our names but the good news was that we had been able to purchase everything on our list for our Mother’s Day dinner.
It had begun to rain harder while we had been inside the store so Tara and I ran to my car. I told her to go ahead and get in while I put the groceries into the back seat.
Just as I was about to get into the driver seat, I noticed something round and brown on the roof of my car right above the driver’s side. Picking it up I noticed it was a coin of some sort but I waited to inspect it better until after I had got in, closed the door, and buckled up.
I was astonished to discover that it was an Irish coin. I immediately recognized the Irish harp and of course, `Eire, which is the ancient Irish name for Ireland. The coin’s year was 1975 and on the back was 2P. I wasn’t sure if that meant 2 pounds or 2 pence.
Then I realized that that coin had probably been left on the top of my car because of my only bumper sticker. It read: “26 + 6 = 1” and it pictured an outline of the whole island of Ireland next to that equation.
I’d had that bumper sticker for almost five years and I frequently had people ask me, with very puzzled expressions, to please explain what that equation meant.
I always told them that it was “Irish Math” and that it meant that the 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland plus the 6 counties in Northern Ireland equaled 1 whole and united Ireland.
After I explained what it meant most people smiled and said that that was a great bumper sticker and some of them asked me where they could buy one for their own car. I was always happy to recommend one of my favorite stores, Sullivan’s Irish Alley, located in downtown Flushing.
I was pretty sure that that person who had seen my bumper sticker was either part Irish or had traveled there at some point. Ireland had just joined the European Union and was, of course, switching their currency to the euro so this coin was no longer in use.
This person had then given this coin to me, maybe in approval for my bumper sticker, by placing it on the roof of my car right where I would be sure to see it as I got into the driver’s seat.
As I sat there staring at this beautiful coin that seemed to say so much to me, I burst into tears. Tara looked at me in alarm and asked what was it in my hand that had made me start to cry?
I then began laughing while continuing to cry and I held it out to her to take and see it for herself. She turned it over several times while she softly said, ‘Wow, this is really cool, Mom.” I nodded my head while I attempted to stop my tears.
“I think somebody left the coin on the roof of my car on purpose because of my Irish Math bumper sticker. And I wish I could give that person the biggest hug because it not only made my day, it made my week, my month, heck, it made my whole year!”
Tara laughed, with tears in her own eyes, as she leaned over to give me a big bear hug of her own.
The wonderful gift of that Irish coin greatly lifted my spirits when I needed it the most. It renewed my strength and my resolve to get through those rough times.
I have cherished that coin ever since that Mother’s Day in 2002. Sometimes if I’m going through other bad or sad times, I will get my Irish coin out and relive again the unexpectedly wonderfully happy gift that a stranger gave to me so long ago.
I have sent many deeply felt good thoughts of gratitude and thanks to my unknown benefactor over the years and I have also tried hard to emulate that stranger by trying to “pay it forward” in any way I can to other people too.
Good deeds are like rabbits: they will always multiply and help many more people, just like my Irish coin helped me.