Life is a lot like a coin collector rummaging through a basket full of old coins until he finds the right one.
I know, you can’t find that anywhere, I just made that up.
And I know what it feels like to rummage through a basket-full of old coins. I just did that today and the other week. I am no coin collector, but a close friend of mine is. I went along the rummaging after learning that the antique shop I usually gawk at sells age old coins and old paper money and that the shop was on sale.
The first time, we searched for the English series and some commemorative coins. I had no idea what it all meant actually. The trick was to find the coins with the lady liberty striking an anvil with a hammer for big coins, and a man striking an anvil with a hammer for small coins. For commemorative coins, you basically just have to find the most unusual coin of the lot. The second time we searched for three coin series at their original minting dates: The 1958 English Series, the 1967 Pilipino Series and the 1975 Bagong Lipunan Series.
I am not new to rummaging through a pile of things. I actually go as far as Cubao and North EDSA to rummage through the piles of books in Booksale, Books For Less, Chapters and Pages and many others. The same passion my friend has for coins, I share when it comes to books. I collect books. With coins though, the difficulty lies in the size of the things. Most old Philippine coins were so small that you had to really squint to get a good look at the coins. The larger ones were sort of easier but with their size, you could only fit a few in your hands as you sort through them.
While rummaging through you get to think a lot of things especially about life.
In the eyes of a collector, an old coin has a value. Those moments when I was rummaging through coins or just watching my friend, we frequently hear people around us who say “those coins are junk!” or “we have a lot of those at home!” Little do they realize the real value of these coins to aficionados and collectors. They are pieces of history ignored and forgotten once the new series of coins roll out of the mint. Their face value may not be taken with regard anymore, but each one has been a part of our story. In the same manner that each person, young or old has value. In this day and age, we tend to disregard old things, old people and old values as passé and unimportant. We don’t realize their importance. Our focus is always on the new and the hip and the trendy. While there’s nothing wrong with that, we should still think of the old ways, the old values and the old people with high regard, because we couldn’t reach this height of success or technology without them paving the road for us.
Finding a coin is like finding a life.
Rummaging through coins is like finding a needle in a haystack. You have to squint and look carefully at each one, noting each detail and seeing if they are still in good condition. You have to carefully assess if the coin has an important part of history. Some coins may be too grimy, others may be too distorted or disfigured. In the same manner, we try to look for the right kind of life for us. We sort of rummage through each lifestyle, seeking comfort that this could be the life that we need or want. It could be a love life, a profession, a career, a culture, a fashion. Yet there is always a better one for us. We see another one that may look shiny and attractive and try it on. The trick there is that every coin, every life style either looks exactly alike or looks better than the next. In the end, we find that there is only one kind of coin, one kind of life that fits us. More often than not, that one life is a life devoted to our Creator. The best life that we could ever have is a life of trust, faith and loves to the Lord our God.
Coins, though collection material, have been passed on from people to people. They have been used countless times by different hands. They have accumulated mold, mildew and various sorts of germs over time. Thus, when rummaging through a basket full of old coins, you don’t expect to get your hands clean. It is truly a dirty work. Yet all the dirt is worth it for the one coin that you have been looking for. I can imagine that eureka moment my friend had when I accidentally found a commemorative coin from the pile. Similarly in life, you cannot find that eureka moment, that height of glory if you cannot go down and do some dirty work. It’s not always just handed to you, sometimes you have to work for it. Imagine one man who did the dirty work for us all to achieve success. He tried to find each of us from the haystack of sin and trouble. He even had to die on the cross looking for us. We are God’s because Jesus died for our sins. He was willing to do the dirty work just to seek us out.
I realized that we are all collectors in one way or another. The way people seemed to boast that they have those coins at home seem to say that we already have a collection better than that. I have a lot of collector friends. One friend collects rocks and minerals. Another one collects shoes. Still another collects stamps. My grandmother once collected shells. I collect books. However, collections should only be limited to objects. You cannot collect friends, girlfriend, or boyfriends. You cannot collect animals or pets. In fact you cannot put any ownership on life. Friends come and go as they please. Girlfriends and boyfriends break up. Pets die. With people you don’t need a collection. They are not objects that could stay all your life. They are not things with which you could demand attention or you could always ignore and get back to as you like it. People are not collectibles. They are lives that you cannot toy with. They change. We have to be careful what we collect.
Happiness is not always permanent.
Coin collecting, while grueling and exhausting could also bring you happiness. That nostalgic eureka moment when you’ve found the coin you have been looking for is priceless. Then again, the fire, the passion of finding the right coin, might fade once the collection has been completed. Not only with coins but with every single thing that you could ever collect. Stamps, books, autographs, name it, you can’t always be happy with it. It may temporarily engage you away from your woes and problems but it cannot give you total happiness. Face it, happiness could never be found anywhere on earth. Not even your girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife. Happiness could only be found when you are in the hands of Jesus. There could be no other place where happiness abounds.
We are all coins.
After rummaging through a pile of old coins, the collector still has to clean the coins and bring it back to its previous shine. Then, he seals it, label it and set it in his album or wherever he keeps them away from grime, dust and decomposition. We are all coins in a certain way. The great coin collector is none other than our supreme source of happiness: God. He finds us in a stack of coins, cleans us up until we’re shiny. Seals us with His righteousness and labels us as His own. Then, He will keep us with Him wherever He goes and shows us to everyone.
Although I am not a collector, I didn’t go home empty handed. I got two commemorative coins. One was 1989 Dekada ng Kulturang Pilipino 1 Peso Commemorative Coin, and the 1991 1 Peso Commemorative Coin of the 400th Year Anniversary Antipolo, Rizal (I gave this to someone). Other than that, I also have the 2011 Commemorative coin of Rizal’s 150th Year Death.