I saw it first. Before my son spied the penny tucked between carpet and baseboard I had seen it. A few minutes later I saw his hand slide into his pocket and quickly slide out again.
This was the opportunity I had expected when the copper first caught my eye.
“Calvin, what did you put in your pocket?”
“A penny,” he said.
“Put it back,” I commanded.
“Why?” he asked with a puzzled look.
It had been a while since we worked together. I still have my contractor’s license but don’t install floors for a living anymore. I only do small jobs in the evenings and weekends. There are a few things I miss about installing floors but the thing I miss most is bringing the kids to work with me. Not only do I miss spending time with them; I miss opportunities to teach and train. I miss teaching them how to work hard, how to work smart, and many other lessons which present themselves throughout a day of work.
The reason he was puzzled about the penny was obvious to me and I saw a lesson. He had worked with me in the past in vacant apartments. In apartments, coins of all sorts are found under refrigerators, washers, and dryers. Like the penny he found today, we often found coins tucked between baseboards and the carpet we were removing. In a vacant apartment I always let my son keep the coins. But today we were in an occupied home. The penny belonged to the home owner.
“Does it belong to you?” I asked.
“No.” he said. But the look on his face said, “It’s just a penny and I always kept them before.”
“Put it back.” I told him.
“Where?” he asked.
I indicated a place and he set it there.
A few minutes later, out of earshot of the homeowner, I explained to him my reasoning.
“Even if it’s just a penny, it belongs to the owner of the house. A vacant apartment is different. No one is coming back to a vacant apartment. The coins have been left behind. But in an occupied home they belong to the homeowner.”
I was reminded of a lesson I learned from a business coach about working in peoples homes. I passed the lesson to my son.
“When working in someone’s home it’s never a good idea to put your hands into your pockets. If the homeowner walks by as your hand slides into your pocket and back out again, they may question what you put into your pocket. They may never say anything to you, but next week when they are missing a piece of jewelry they will remember your hand – and your pocket. Never give someone a reason not to trust you while working in their home.”
I think he understood the lesson. The incident reminded me of the wisdom of Deuteronomy six. There are some lessons learned best when we are spending time with our children. Whether lessons about pennies or the Law of God, some things are learned best by walking alongside a dad.