A Penny (or a $100 Grand Bar) For Your Thoughts
When I was a little girl, my dad’s family owned a vending company. I remember thinking how incredible that business was because any time we visited my grandparents’ house, we were allowed to go back into their warehouse garage and wander through the boxes of candy, chips, and honey buns to choose a snack.
Snickers usually did it for me. Occasionally, I went for a Butterfinger or a Baby Ruth.
Grandad had an old Chevy truck that he used for the business. He replaced the tailgate of the truck with an elevator lift to load vending machines into the back of it. And I can still feel in my body the thrill of standing on that lift, watching Grandad work the levers, and riding it up into Grandad’s truck.
My favorite thing about Old South Vendors, though, was the money. Bag after bag of coins and dollar bills came to the house when employees finished their routes. And if I was lucky, I was paid to straighten and count the $1 bills, banding them into $100 stacks for a bank deposit.
I could spend an afternoon and evening at my grandparents’ house watching Gilligan’s Island, the Beverly Hillbillies, and Happy Days while getting paid $10 or $20 to count money. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Perhaps my early exposure to the vending business is what led me to think of life as a giant vending machine. Drop a quarter in, punch in your selection, and a cup falls, fills with ice, and finishes off with a perfect mixture of Coca-Cola syrup and carbonated water. (That is, at least, how Old South’s machines worked, and it’s probably the reason I’ve always thought fountain drinks were better than canned ones.) In life, I thought, you drop in a quarter of being a good girl, punch in the reward you want, and a cup fills with the good things a good girl deserves.
But what happens when you put your quarter in and the cup doesn’t drop? Or the cup fills with carbonated water and no syrup? You kick the machine, shake it, and spend the rest of the day enraged at losing your quarter, right?
To draw out the metaphor, what happens when you do exactly as you’re told, play by the rules, do what good girls do, yet your marriage fails, or you lose a job, and you find your cup filled with bitterness rather than the sweetness you think you deserved? If you’re attached to that formula, you curse God, shake your fist at life, and pout because things didn’t turn out the way you thought they should. And you keep that up until the day you realize that you’ve been putting nickel slugs in that machine.
Because what if the giant vending machine of life doesn’t actually operate on the formula of playing by the rules equals rewards? What if our thoughts, not our actions, are the coins that purchase what we get in life? Quantum physics tells us that thoughts become molecules, that they transform from something invisible to something that can be seen. The Bible seems to say the same thing: “As a man thinks, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), further encouraging us to “think on good things” (Philippians 4:8). In other words, the magic formula is this: we get what we think about.
The quality of my life is solely determined by the quality of my thoughts? That feels better. Right now, I’m thinking about an Almond Joy and a box of Good & Plenty.