Parable of Coins

In the movie “What About Bob?” Bob Wiley says, “There are two types of people in the world, those who like Neil Diamond and those who don’t.” Unless someone is looking for a date to a Neil Diamond concert, this information falls into the category of trivia. But, it still illustrates sorting. Sorting people is a daily activity. Recruiting volunteers, looking for customers or donors and inviting to a party are examples. Two well-known U.S. Marine slogans imply that they sort, too.

“We’re looking for a few good men!”

“The Few. The Proud. the Marines.”


An eccentric uncle died and left three jars of coins with the following instructions:

“To each of my surviving nieces and nephews, I bequeath one jar of coins. Each jar contains hundreds of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters of which three or more are old, rare and cumulatively worth AT LEAST $150,000.”

Love, Uncle George“Crackpot”
(Surprise! You thought I couldn’t hear you!)

On his way home from the attorney’s office, Bill stopped at the bank where he put his coins into a safety deposit box. His jar was the fullest, but appeared to contain mostly pennies. With that thought in mind, he concluded that there was no hurry. He decided to wait and see if the others found any rare coins before investing any of his time in crazy Uncle George’s practical joke. After a few days, Bill got busy with other matters and totally forgot about the coins. The coins remain in the safety deposit box to this day.

“A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.” — Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” — Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan, 1892, Act III

Lisa was more than a tad disappointed. What she really deserved was Uncle George’s house. And why not? She was his favorite. Instead, a stupid jar of coins was all she got. At home, Lisa reluctantly spilled the coins onto the kitchen table and halfheartedly picked one up to examine it. “1995. Not this one,” she said aloud as it clanked back into the jar. She checked another — same reaction. Twenty more coins came off the table, past the unmotivated eyes of Inspector Lisa and back into the jar. She was already wondering how long this would take and if it was just a big waste of time. After all, her favorite television show would start soon.

“The great thing about television is that if something important happens anywhere in the world, day or night, you can always change the channel.” — From “Taxi”

As Lisa continued her little ritual, impatience grew to the point where she began sarcastically encouraging the coins to become rare and valuable. “Come on Penny, you can do it!” The whole thing was getting old really fast. By now, Lisa was barely even looking at the coins. Finally, at her wits end, she swept the entire pile back into the jar and slid it into the hall closet. The very next day, the coins started a month-long procession to the candy store by hitching a ride in the pockets of some naughty children.

“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Far more than her siblings, Lindsay needed what Uncle George had promised. Even while working three jobs, her debt was growing and the dream of college for her kids was fading. The potential of the jar meant new hope. During the drive home, Lindsay formed a simple plan that would help her take full advantage of her limited spare time.

Lindsay began executing her plan immediately. She spread the coins on the table and quickly pulled out all reasonable candidates. Besides purchasing her valuable coins, the appraiser might give her some advice that would help her more effectively sort the coins as she made a second pass through the jar. By the end of the month, Lindsay had successfully executed her plan. The valuable coins allowed her to pay off her credit cards and car loan and open two $50,000 college savings accounts.

“The ability to focus attention on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence.” — Robert J. Shiller

“Gather in your resources, rally all your faculties, marshal all your energies, focus all your capacities upon mastery of at least one field of endeavor.” — John Haggai

“Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo


How we sort our “coins” determines success. Like Lindsay, get started, stay focused, sort quickly and look for the ones that are special.

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at:

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