There was a song called “Magic Penny” that we used to sing in Sunday School. It went like this:
Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny. Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor.
In our staff book club this last week, I was thinking of this song. I even brought it up, but apparently it was a niche melody from a rural protestant church, because no one else had heard of it! As a kid, the whole paradox of the lyrics blew my mind. How can you spend something and get more? How can you hold something tight and not have it?
Like most people, except the truly introverted who are completely at peace with this, I have had ups and downs over the past 8 weeks.
I try not to think about all the people I’m missing. All the things that I am missing, or missing out on. I try to check myself once in a while, knowing that I am enduring this with a giant amount of privilege. But I also let myself be sad sometimes, and it doesn’t matter if you are 7 or 17 or 70 (or going on 79 days without seeing your daughter) comparing pain is moot. As Dr. Jody says, “If you’re old enough to love, you’re old enough to grieve.”
So when I feel that I have spent too much time in that place, the best way to get out of it, is to do something for someone else.
The Magic Penny song nailed that concept in the 1970s.
Think literally about that magic penny. Hold it tight and you won’t have any. Well technically, you’ll have one, and that’s it. But lend it and spend it, and it will come back to you over and over again, sometimes with interest. I’m sure this is an actual economic strategy that CERB and other stimulus packages around the world are based on, presently trying to keep local businesses afloat.
As a simile, love is like a magic penny works too. If I hoard emotion away, it’s all there inside me. Full of love but not giving it to anyone else? Well, that’s kinda lonely. Full of anxiety and stress and resentment? Well, that’ll just eat you up when you tuck it away.
But lend that love to someone who needs it? Be that listening ear?
Spend that love? Spread appreciation around like confetti? Forgive?
There’s lots of research on how you benefit more in giving, than the recipient receives in getting. The whole premise of servant leadership is predicated on giving to others.
I know that when I cause joy for someone, I feel more joyful.
That when I bring some happiness through a small surprise, I feel happier.
Jeesh, even when I crack really cheesy jokes in our class time online, and I hear a little giggle, I feel a small glimmer of connection that I’ve missed so much. And knowing that I made someone laugh makes me feel better.
As Dr. Jody Carrington writes in her book, “Anxiety or depression cannot live in a relaxed body. Slow it down as many times a day as you can muster. It’s magic.”
A virtual colleague tagged me in an article this week. It was on teacher burnout in the pandemic. I loved this part:
“While no one has the answers, I’m starting to feel the best thing I can do is help students manage and cope with their uncomfortable feelings…Instead of quickly assuring them that things will be over soon, I ask them, ‘What can you do right now that will make this hardship feel a little easier?’”
It reminds me of Dr. Jody’s questions: Tell me more. What am I missing? What is the hardest part?
If feelings of failure and frustration can’t co-exist with success and confidence, then I need to do things that ease someone else’s hardship, or make someone else’s day, and in the process will feel better too.
I know it’s true.
I’ll share one. Some of you will know that I live stream a half hour of piano music every day, hoping to reach shut-in seniors or care homes.
There were literally dozens of reasons that I gave myself for NOT doing it. The top ones included not wanting to see myself on the internet, knowing I am not the best piano player out there, and actively avoiding the embarrassment of making mistakes on a live stream (which would just reinforce that I’m not the best piano player out there, and round and round we go in a vicious circle lol.)
You know what?
None of that mattered.
On days that just a handful of people tune in (my mom, my grade 4 teacher, and my friend Lisa are my faithful listeners) I know that they are there because they want to be. They don’t care what my hair looks like, or that my phone goes off, or about any of my mistakes. They don’t care that my piano is out of tune, is missing some key tops, and that the Db in the left hand doesn’t play at all.
You know what they notice?
That I played their favorite polka.
That they were enjoying the music as they reorganized their recipe binder over lunch.
That their mom had sewed special dresses for the square dance club they had in grade 9 called the Belles and Beaus.
When I come back the next day to record again, sometimes twenty people have watched it and sometimes two hundred. All of them have seen my hair just pulled back in a ponytail. Heard the mistakes. Watched the music fall off the piano mid-song.
And you know what?
They don’t care either.
“One of my favorites.”
“Makes me want to dance.”
“Thank you for sharing.”
Love is something if you give it away folks. You end up having more.
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