The other day I rode my bicycle to the air pump at the Shell gas station on the corner of Kane and Glenmore. When I arrived I saw an elderly man on the other side of the pump – white, thin hair, black pants shiny from use and a shirt that seemed bought at a cheap discount warehouse.
He was rooting around in the dirt with what looked like a garden claw, which puzzled me because he was moiling in a patch surrounded on all sides by cement and asphalt.
As I began to pump air into my tires he stooped down and picked up something. “Ah..,” he said with delight, “…a penny.”
“You digging for money?” I asked, curious about how he’d decided to dig in this peculiar spot in the first place.
“Yeah, ” he replied. “I found twenty-one cents so far.”
I still wonder how he’d come upon that one spot to dig in. But at the time, asking the question didn’t figure in my experience of this odd moment.
During our brief conversation he found a couple more coins and he vounteered that he would be giving the money to a missionary at the small Pentecostal congregation he attended at the Presbyterian church up the road.
I felt both amused and puzzled by the situation as I would be by a naked person suddenly walking into the elevator in which I was riding. I simply let it happen as if it were an event as common as dandelions. But I also felt impressed by this man’s simple generosity.
It was a quaint slice of life dished up by fate as an hors d’oeuvre to be savoured: an old man moiling for coins in a bit of earth at a gas station.