Some people think that the penny should be taken out of circulation because of its low economic value.
In backpack journalism, we carry them around to tighten the screw that attaches the tripod’s plate to the camera (well, those of us who can handle pocket knives use them; however, I am definitely not one of those people).
Three young kids watched from a distance as we unloaded the bus at JRS Kampala. Unloading the camera equipment does not take all nine students, so I wandered over to where the kids were standing and crouched down so that I was at eye level with them. After handshakes and names, I wasn’t quite sure what else to do. Thinking about the materials I had that could provide any sort of entertainment I called Andrew over and asked if he had a penny. He did.
My initial idea was to flip the coin, but I didn’t get much of a reaction. And, metaphorically, that makes sense. Whether a flipped coin lands on heads or tails is simply a matter of chance. And these kids, having been born refugees, know all too well what the losing side of chance looks like.
So, I called an audible and switched the game. I put both my hands behind my back, placed the penny in one of my fisted hands, and put my fists in front of me. The kids guessed by pointing to the fist they thought held the penny. And not after long, the kids were hooked – excited when right, disappointed when wrong, and, regardless, eager for another chance to guess. Soon enough, the game caught the attention of a small gathering of kids all pointing to the fist of their choice.
The game didn’t last too much longer. I had to catch up with the group because we only had a limited amount of time at JRS to get B-roll before leaving for another site. But, for the five or so minutes that it lasted, the game provided the means for interaction that resulted in laughter (as, in my opinion, more interactions should).
So, for those of you who think that the penny if worthless, you might be right when it comes to economics but are wrong when it come to its utility beyond the market.