Inspiration #7 – Surprise Ahead

“Everything in the universe is a pitcher brimming with wisdom and beauty.” -Rumi

In presenting this week’s theme I suggested we see ourselves as part of something larger. Expanding on that, Planting KindnessI now ask us to see each one of us as part of a universe of beings all embedded with the desire to be kind. In this universe there is a conspiracy going on, a positive conspiracy to, in its most optimistic interpretation, bring joy to every person in it. And maybe we, individual people, are just the vehicles designed to provide each other all we need in any given moment by this friendly universe.

In chapter two of her book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” Annie Dillard tells the story of how when she was a small child she’d sometimes hide a penny in her neighborhood for someone to find. She’d write out directions with chalk that lead to the penny, with statements like “Surprise Ahead” or “Money This Way,” and imagine the excitement of the person smart enough to follow the directions to the prize.

Later, Dillard refers to nature as providing “lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.” She says, “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.” Wow! Could it be that Dillard is suggesting there are all sorts of kindnesses out there just waiting for us to find? But maybe these acts of kindness aren’t so random. Maybe they are part of a bigger picture being carried out by a friendly universe, what Dillard calls a generous hand.

Think about that.

Before Dillard is done, she asks, “But who gets excited by a mere penny?” That’s our problem, isn’t it? We think that what we do or what we encounter isn’t big enough, as if finding a penny hidden by a 6 year-old child isn’t a big deal. Dillard writes, “It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”

Read that again — The world is in fact planted in pennies. And now imagine these pennies as having been hidden by a child flush with the wisdom and purity of her youth, with signs pointing to them, signs that say, “SURPRISE AHEAD!” How wonderful does the world look now?

So your role this week is to anonymously plant pennies and surprises for people to find without them knowing you planted them. While doing that, I encourage you to imagine that everyone else is doing the same thing. With that in mind, don’t forget to look for those pennies and surprises meant for you, too.


  1. Two nights ago, I went out to the car to get something I had left there. A hoot owl called just before I opened the door. I stood and waited – would it hoot again? It did. Its voice was so soft. I stepped back inside and called my husband. The owl hooted one more time and that was it. The wonder in the dark of hearing “an invisible to us” owl in a nearby tree is a moment stopper.

    “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.”

    One morning I looked out the breakfast nook window and saw a trail of deer prints in the back yard through the snow. Magic happened overnight. Another morning when we first arrived in Salt Lake City a covey of quail scuttled across our back yard to get to the neighbor’s feeder. Even in a large city there is abundant wildlife, some you see, some you hear, some you see the evidence of their presence by tracks. Look, listen, and observe….

  2. This week I planned an event similar to what I did the first time I was in this class; This time instead of leaving notes in library books, I left notes in lockers at the pool. I typed out different messages, such as “Smile, it’s chatching.” Be kind to yourself today,” Do something kind for a stranger.” Say thank you to someone today,” etc. and stuck them to the inside back wall of the lockers with smiley faces or baloon stickers. That way when someone open the locker they will see them. I liked the idea of this being a totally anonomyous act, although there is a chance that I might hear someone make a comment about the greetings.

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