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The pickle jar was a fixture in my parent’s bedroom. It sat on the floor beside the dresser and when Dad got ready for bed, he would empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar.
The sounds that pocket change made as they were dropped into the jar were always fascinating. They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. However, the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled.
I loved squatting on the floor in front of the jar to admire the copper and silver circles. They glinted like a pirate’s treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.
Just before the jar overflowed, Dad would take it to the kitchen, sit at the table and roll up the coins before heading to the bank.
Now, taking coins to the bank was always a big deal. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck.
Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad glanced toward me look.
His words were always the same and I knew from experience what he was going to say.
“These coins are going to hopefully keep you out of the textile mill, son,” he said. “You’re gonna’ do better than me. This old mill town isn’t going to hold you back.”
We would patiently wait for a teller and as Dad slid the box of rolled coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly and say, “These are for my son’s college fund. He’ll never work at the mill all his life like me.”
Afterward, we’d celebrate the occasion by stopping for an ice cream cone.
I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla.
When the clerk at the ice cream parlor handed Dad his change, he would hold out his hand to show me the few coins nestled in his palm.
“When we get home, we’ll start filling the jar again,” he said.
Dad always let me drop the first coins into the now- empty jar.
As they rattled around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other. “You’ll get to college on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters,” he said. “But you’ll get there; I’ll see to that.”
No matter how tight things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his pocket change into the pickle jar.
Even the summer that Dad got laid off from the mill and Mama had to serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar.
It was just the opposite.
As Dad looked across the table at me, pouring ketchup over my beans to make them more palatable, he became more determined than ever to make a way out for me.
“When you finish college, son,” he told me with his eyes glistening, “You’ll never have to eat beans again unless you want to.”
The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town. I came home whenever I got the chance.
Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom.
That’s when it hit me; the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been removed.
A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser where the jar always stood. I couldn’t help but recall how many times I had squatted down by it, hoping, wishing and dreaming.
You know, my dad didn’t talk that much. He never lectured me on the importance of determination, perseverance and faith, but his pickle jar sure did.
That jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently than the most flowery of words could have done.
When I married, I told my wife, Susan, about the significance that a lowly pickle jar had in my life.
More than anything else, that jar defined how much my dad loved me.
The Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the holiday with my parents.
After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild.
Jessica began to whimper softly, so Susan took her from Dad’s arms.
“She probably needs to be changed,” Susan said, as she carried the baby into my parents’ bedroom to diaper her.
When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes.
She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and quietly leading me into their room.
“Look,” she said softly, her eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser.
To my amazement – as if it had never been moved – stood that old pickle jar with the bottom already lined with coins.
I walked over to the jar, dug deep inside my pants pockets and pulled out a fistful of coins. With a gamut of emotions choking me up, I dropped the change into the jar.
When I looked up, Dad, who carrying Jessica, had slipped quietly into the room with us.
Our eyes locked. Although neither of us could speak, I knew we were feeling the same thing.
He’s gone now, but I’ll never forget that day as long as I live.
Times are tough around here right now for a lot of folks.
Sometimes we get so busy adding up troubles that we forget to count our blessings.
With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life for better or for worse.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. Look for good in others.
Nothing happens by chance. God pours us in each other’s lives for a reason, It’s just like change poured into a pickle jar.