Pennies and Pizza

Interesting how it takes only a small pebble to start an avalanche….

I received an e-mail today at work inviting my unit along with another unit to a 3rd unit’s pizza party lunch tomorrow.  The message indicated something like “Jerry’s penny/change jar is full, so it’s time for a lunch party!”.  I wasn’t sure what that was all about, but pizza is always good, so I gave it due attention.  Apparently others in the aisle were also unaware of the “penny jar” rule, so they began asking Jerry about it, where it came from, why it was important, etc.  I could hear their questions floating over the cubicles and down my way.

Apparently, Jerry had a rather large glass jar at his desk that he and others tossed spare pennies/change into as they walked by or whenever they thought of it.  When the jar got full, they cashed it out and bought lunch for the entire team – and apparently it collected enough for two other teams lunch, as well.  As the conversation unfolded, Jerry explained to the newer folks that a few years ago, there was a woman on our floor (her name is Sethu) from India who had a small vase that people would contribute pennies to.  The joke at the time was that they were contributing to her travel fund for her yearly trip to India to visit her family.  When Sethu left the floor to join another team elsewhere, she had “willed” her penny jar to Jerry to carry on the tradition of penny collecting.  Jerry was obviously not planning to travel to India, but the collection kept growing all the same.  At some point he had to get a bigger jar as the vase began to overflow.  Eventually, the idea of using the pennies for a team lunch occurred to somebody and the tradition was born.

As I listened to the explanation, my mind started working backwards even further.  When all of the dots finally connected, I had to laugh to myself a little, because I knew more history about the pennies than even I had originally realized.  Many years ago, Sethu and I used to work on the same team.  We had a good working relationship, and I liked to give her a hard time occasionally.  One day, when I carried much more cash money (as opposed to cards) than I do today, I realized that I had about seven pennies mingled in with a pocket full of change.  I hated carting those pennies around, because you couldn’t use them in the vending machines and they just clunked around in your pocket.  So, I removed just the pennies from my change pocket, and set them on Sethu’s cubicle wall as I walked by.  They stayed there for a while, and the next time I had two or three pennies I did the same thing.  Eventually, Sethu figured out it was me who was leaving the pennies on her wall, but could not talk me into taking them back.  So, in order to keep them from falling all over the place, she started placing them into a flower vase.  So, now you know…the rest of the story.

So, several years ago I got annoyed by seven pennies, and tomorrow I, and several others, will enjoy a pizza party that resulted from a culmination of events that were set in motion when I placed those pennies at Sethu’s cube.  I may be the only one there who knows the entire chain of events – most everybody else will just enjoy the pizza.

I suppose there’s a lesson in there somewhere.  Sometimes the smallest thing can result in something much larger, many years down the road.  I wonder how many things we set in motion and never see the end result of?


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