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Change Of Heart

In the year 1966, a beautiful penny was born. She had lovely, copper-colored hair and a perfect round body.

As she rolled out of the minted womb, she was put in a paper casing with 49 other new pennies and taken to a place called a "bank." One evening about 5:00 p.m., she heard a voice say, "I'd better break open a roll of pennies so I'll be ready for morning."

Thereafter the little coin felt herself tumbling about until she landed in a small compartment with several others like herself. Looking around, she spied a very different penny.

"So, who are you and what are you staring at?" asked the grumpy stranger. "I'm a penny and I didn't mean to stare," she replied in a tremulous voice. "Well of course you're a penny. Anyone can see that—what's your name? You know that thing that makes you unique and identifiable?" "Well, uh, name, uh-I guess I don't have one."

"Hmm... well, you'd better get one or you'll get the same moniker they all get, who doesn't have names," retorted her crusty companion. "What name is that?" she asked. "Well, Anne—It's short for Anne Nonimous," he spat out with disdain. "And then no one will ever know who you are."

"Do you have any suggestions for a name?" she asked.

"Well, let's see-yep-yer a classy one all right—and smart one too. Let's call you, Myrtle. I once knew a silver dollar named Myrtle, and a fine lady she was."

"Myrtle... Myrtle..." she thought, "That's a great name. From now on, when anyone asks me who I am, I can say, 'Myrtle.' Thanks mister."

"Think nothin' of it kid. So you're a newborn huh? Well, I suppose there's a few more things I better tell ya." As they nestled comfortably in the cash drawer for the night, her mentor told her about many wondrous things. Her favorite stories were those about the other coins.

"You sees, when we're all mixed up together in a pocket or purse, the humans call us 'change'," he told her.

But we're not all the same. No siree! There are the old nickels," he said, "bigger and rougher, with buffaloes on 'em.

Ya gotta look out fer them buffalo nickels," he warned, "they don't like being part of change. They hold onto the past when buffaloes were plentiful and respected. Then there's the dimes—well dimes are smaller, but people like them better'n us. Sometimes they'll see one of us on the ground and just walk on by, but they'll never pass up a dime or a quarter or a dollar. Let me give you one last bit of advice before turning in."

"What's that?" she asked. "Come close, don't hang around with the slugs—they'll get ya in a jam every time. They pretend to be like change, but they aren't. They're big phonies! Now get some shut-eye and good luck."

Myrtle smiled (as pennies often do when humans aren't looking) and said to her rough friend with the smooth soul, "Thank you for your help-er what was your name again?"

"Never mind"

"No, please tell me."

"Oh, all right it's 'Anne', darn it, 'cuz nobody ever told me about names."

Myrtle was still chuckling as she dozed off.

She was awakened by the bright light of her drawer being opened. Once again she was jostled and when she settled down she looked for Mr. Anne Darnit but he was gone. Suddenly she was whisked from her place by a hand—and then placed in another hand—my goodness there were lots of hands!

Myrtle's life became a constant monetary motion. She was passed from palm to palm, pocket to pocket and purse to purse thousands of times. Once she went from a small sticky hand into a gumball machine.

She learned that if sales clerks said, "OK, that'll be—" and then concluded with any amount ending in one, two, three, four, six, seven, eight, or nine, she might be called into service. She rested when she heard zeros and fives, knowing that her friends, nickels, dimes, quarters and halves would be used then. Occasionally she would encounter a peso, a lira, or another coin from far away and she would learn about the world.

Only one thing bothered her normally positive disposition. From early in life, people treated her as common. Sometimes they would look through all their change searching as if for a treasure, but then they'd say, "Nope, nothing but pennies." Feeling unworthy, She longed to be a more precious coin.

Once she was lying on a dresser top and she spied a penny in a plastic wrapper. She immediately said, "Hi, what's your name?"

"Why, "Un", of course," came the very patronizing reply.

"Un-what?" inquired the naive Myrtle.

"Un-circulated, of course."


"That means I have never been in circulation. I am virtually untouched by the Gods. I even have this perfectly, sealed home to live in so I'll never even tarnish.

Myrtle had to admit that Un was gorgeous. She was a 1914—45 years younger than herself, yet Un was brilliant and beautiful. Myrtle became self conscious about the wear and discoloration she was accumulating in her constant travels. She wished, if she had to be a worthless penny, that she could have been a beautiful one like Un.

The next morning she was off again, but she was not looking forward to another day of being insignificant. Early in the morning a gentleman took her from atop the dresser and placed her in his pocket. Later, she heard him say,

"Hi, I'd like a dozen red roses for my wife and a white one too—for the baby—you see we're going to have a baby soon and we're very excited."

"Congratulations, sir. That comes to $8.31."

Myrtle perked up immediately, happy to be part of such a loving transaction. Soon she was settled in the cash register drawer.

Later in the day a lady stopped by the flower shop and asked for a plant for her mother who was ill and needed an uplifting gift. Myrtle was given to the lady in change and once again got to be part of a loving gesture. When she came to rest that evening, she was dropped through a small slot into a glass container.

"Hey, is that you, Myrtle?" asked a familiar voice.

Stunned, the penny realized she was sitting next to her old friend, Anne Darnit.

"My gosh it's great to see you," she exclaimed.

"That it is, that it is. Well, what have you learned in all your travels, Miss Myrtle?" he asked.

Her ferrous lip protruded slightly as she responded. "I know I'm not pretty and shiny like I used to be," she commented self-consciously. "And I know I'm not as important as a half-dollar and I'm certainly not as lovely as a uncirculated penny."

"Well it sounds like you have lots to learn, young one. The value printed on your face isn't important, it's the way you've been spent that matters. And you can't possibly be part of a good and generous act if you never leave your wrapper. Don't you worry. I think you look wonderful. Your smudges are testimonies to your worth to the world and to the true potential of being a part of change. Now dry your tears before you rust. We'll have lots of time to talk. This thing is called a piggy bank, and humans keep us here for months–-even years–-but the rest will do you good."

"Thanks Anne Darnit."

Myrtle rolled over next to her mentor, Anne Darnit, and thought about what he had said. A warm feeling came to her heart and she knew that she would never again wish to be something other than what she was.


" 'Night, kid."

With that, she rested for several months before the glass was broken and she was, once again, in circulation.

It Follows:
At the heart of change there is always a change of heart.


Guiding Questions for "Change of Heart"

This story focuses on the need to accept change as inevitable and important. As you read it, think about your own attitude toward change and how you would lead others through the transition process.


Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But, in reality, people do have a response to a person when they hear a name spoken. How would you like others to respond when they hear your name? What can you do to ensure that response?

2. Leaders have both the opportunity and the responsibility to mentor others. This practice benefits the individual through personal/professional growth and the organization through continuity of focus and mission. How do you systematically make time to mentor others?
3. Honestly and sincerity are critical to effective leadership - even when it is difficult to tell the truth, the web that results from lies can ultimately be far more treacherous. Do you practice telling the truth in a positive and productive way?
4. Myrtle is an optimist. She opens herself to the bright light of possibilities in each day. Do you consciously try to be optimistic?
5. Leadership is complex and often messy. Even the best make mistakes and bear the scars of their experiential learnings. Are you willing to acknowledge and learn from your errors?
6. Being part of a "loving transaction" or positive interactions can bolster a leader's attitude and uplift the organization as well. Sometimes people get so caught up in responding to crises, that they forget or delay the exuberance that comes from such encounters. Do you consciously plan opportunities to compliment, reward, and laugh with the spirits of those who you lead?
7. It is important to deal with change at two levels: as the person changing in the moment and as the learner who can separate self from the situation in order to reflect and learn. Do you plan time for reflection?
8. Changing a decision or circumstance is much easier than changing our inner core. Can you name a time when you had a "change of heart"? What caused it to change? What criterion do you have for change at the value level?

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