Copper and New Contentment
By Julia, age 14, New York
The United States penny is equivalent to one one-hundredth of a dollar in the U.S. When clean, the coin illuminates a soft colored glow and casts only a small unnoticeable shadow. While colored differently than all other coins, the penny blends in amongst all other money when looked at without prejudice.
Last week, I found myself taking my typical afternoon walk through the halls of my high school to my father's car after track practice. Coming up to our first meet, we practiced field events for the first time. Clueless as to where my strengths lie, I feebly followed my friend to the high jump station. The afternoon resulted into a salty mix of embarrassment and excitement as I attempted to make my way amongst all the athletes soaring into the air and over the daunting poles.
The confusion rested dormant within me as I awkwardly wandered down the math wing. I was making my way to "four corners," the meeting place of four halls in our school. In the distance, I spotted a small figure uncomfortably pacing back and forth. I didn't fuss over the sight though; you can always count on finding someone calling for a ride or banging on the archaic, non-responsive Snapple machine. As I drew closer, I briefly gave the figure my attention, and then lost it to a glass display case. When my gaze readjusted, the silhouette was staring right at me with a smile plastered across his unidentified face.
From the years 1793-1857, the penny was created from 100% copper. Today the coin is composed of mostly zinc with a small copper finishing. The finish gives the coin a genuine, undisturbed appearance, yet inside it is changed due to what was enforced to it.
"JUUUULIA," the voice called, now appearing closer to me. I could then recognize the figure to be a boy who was in several of my early middle school classes. (I'll call him Ryan for the sake of his privacy in this article.)
"JUULIA!" Ryan exclaimed as I walked closer, outstretching his arms for an embrace. Startled, I dropped my bags at my feet and gave into his innocent demand. "Do you remember me?" "Yes, of course I do," I replied. Ryan beamed with excitement like a small child on Christmas morning. "How have you been?"
Two years ago, Ryan was placed in my classes in order to give him a chance at normalcy. Ryan no longer attends my school, thus leading to my puzzlement. He has always had a learning disability, yet I never learned what his struggle is exactly. He ecstatically explained to me that he attends BOCES, the alternative school in our area that meets the needs of students like Ryan. On Fridays, he participates in the games club at the high school which allows him to have a mild integration with typical teenagers.
I stood absorbed in Ryan's thoughts while he spoke. As he struggled to make out the words he so desperately craved, I felt gratitude for the ability of communication that I am gifted with. He explained to me that he is unable to read or write, and while I tried to keep a steady conversation afloat he would forget things he said just moments ago.
While we talked, many passing students left for the promise of spring break. Their alien stares came as nothing to Ryan, but they shook me to the core. Ryan is used to such subjection; I too used to be one of those countless faces. Day by day we taunted him, tearing a piece of wonder away from his subsistence. Ignorance is just as brutal as mockery; Ryan was an easy laughing post. When we were done, we slapped on a grin and humane actions to cover our concentration camp. Suddenly I found myself amongst the toiled, seeing in Ryan's unfailing eyes how blissful innocence is.
"I'll see you around," I said when I realized that I could not stay any longer. In the moment, there was no false laughter and no transparent empathy - just pristine copper.
The penny has been considered for elimination from the nation's currency. The abolishment of the coin would lead to a loss of history, as the penny was one of the first U.S. coins to be produced. The coin holds presidential history, and it has found its way into the homes of every American. The penny's value cannot be diminished by man; man can only gawk at its unique, unchangeable difference.