Finding Dimes

Last year, my sister in law informed me that finding a dime in a random spot was a sign that a departed loved one was nearby and looking out for me. She said that when her sister had passed away, she began to find dimes everywhere-only dimes-not loose change as you might expect. Skeptically, I thought back to my teaching days and to the penny launching craze that lasted far too long. Kids would place a penny between thumb and middle finger, then snap their fingers and send it zinging through the air. Complaints about putting someone’s eye out couldn’t stop the offenders, who got very good at concealing the action and I must admit, accurate with their aim, as no eyes were put out that I knew of. Pennies would litter the halls and I reasoned that since they are no longer in circulation, and nickels are perhaps too thick, dimes have replaced pennies in this “game.” Hence the seemingly random discovery of dimes-but no other coins.

My skepticism persisted but it has been somewhat shaken up, as often happens when you learn a little about how others see the world. When we got back to our hotel room after visiting an ailing relative, not long after my sister in law told me about the dimes and their significance, we found a trail of five dimes leading up to our doorway. Now, several factors have to come into play for a person to find money on the ground: you must be looking down; debris and patterns should be minimal; you usually are not moving quickly. Also, the likelihood of finding something does not seem to increase just because you are looking for it-just try dropping a screw when you are say, installing new vertical blinds-finding that screw can take forever as you incredulously sweep your hand back and forth where you swear it fell, fanning out in wider more thorough scans until stupidly you find it under the couch, nowhere near the blinds.

Anyway, my point is, it does not seem too likely that a person will find money, especially when not looking for it. In order to prove this, one statistician decided to invest money that he found but he would not let himself look for money. He claims, “that the typical person doing typical things has about a 45% chance of finding a non-zero amount of money each day.” Note that his statement just says, money, not dimes. It seems to me that the probability of finding dimes would be down around five percent (totally non-mathematical estimation, there) yet, if you wanted to believe that the dime meant something, it would appear that you found them at a higher rate, since the more you think about something the greater the chances that you will bump up against a confirmation bias, wherein your opinions tweak reality to conform with what you already think.

Later, after our relative had passed, we found dimes all over the house when generally we do not strew money about. Each time, we would tell each other and make a note to tell my sister in law, as she was surely the one most in need of hearing these stories. It was her belief, after all. That was last year and I don’t recall finding a dime on its own or accompanied by others since then.

ice formations by connie sobchak

Christmas morning, I went for a run before we headed up the valley for the day. I had the trails to myself and my camera at the ready, hoping for some Christmas chickadees or at least a junco or two. Instead, I stopped again at the ice formations where one of the channels runs from the lake. I decided to make a short video, because the sound of the rushing water under the ice was so special. As I recorded, I thought of my mom, who loved a good creek. I contemplated other people who might be missing loved ones and at the same time I was grateful to be able to get out in the fresh air and move my limbs and look forward to family time and traditions. And of course, there in the frosty grass, I spied a dime that I was definitely not looking for.

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I only met two people that morning after my big find. The first person lost a partner to death last year and though we don’t know each other well, we shared a hug and a Christmas greeting. As I resumed my run, I contemplated going back to tell her about the dime but decided against it; a story about the meaning of found dimes felt too insubstantial to lessen her grief and might even have been offensive. Connecting with another person and feeling part of a community seemed likely to offer more comfort. But still, the message of the dime was not lost on me. It pointed out that those who have passed are but a thought away; it gave me a shiny reminder that there are mysteries that have many possible interpretations.