A little girl in Illinois wrote to the tooth fairy to say she would take dollars instead of coins if that would help the situation. That’s how real the coin shortage got in the United States when much of the country was in stay-at-home mode. Here in Canada the shortage was $50 bills. Does that make us high rollers or paranoid hoarders? Not sure. But coins weren’t circulating south of the border. Some retailers wouldn’t offer change if customers paid in cash. Others gave the option of adding the equivalent to their loyalty cards or donate balances to charity. It got me thinking about fountains around the world and all the coins sitting dormant at any given time.
For centuries, people have been tossing coins into fountains and making wishes. There’s just something about listening to the plop of a coin as it hits the water and makes it descent. As it does, it is often joining countless other coins to the tune of thousands of dollars each year.
Most fountains are cleared of their coins quite regularly and the money earmarked for charity. In Disney Parks it goes to children in foster care while the Rainforest Café sends theirs to environmental charities. Fountains in Las Vegas, West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America yield thousands for charity each year, but the most impressive is Trevi Fountain in Rome which can collect almost $3500 per day.
Imagine what might be found if one hadn’t been cleaned out in more than a decade.
Such was the case when an aquarium in North Carolina temporarily closed due to the pandemic. For the first time in 14 years, the staff turned off its 30-foot waterfall and cleaned out the coins that had been tossed into the water.
We likely don’t think twice about the value of coins we throw into fountains because they represent such a small fraction of what we have. Make a wish, drop a coin or two into the water, and carry on. We don’t give a thought to what we’ve parted with. But we should. Not because of what we’ve thrown in, but because of what it represents when it joins with others. That’s where the bigger value lies—when our coins combine with all the others. Great things come as a result.
The same goes for another treasure we can contribute to: election results. One ballot—when combined with others—is powerful. How powerful? In Quebec in 1994 a dead heat was declared in a riding and a whole new election had to be held 42 days later. In Virginia in 1971 a tie was broken by putting names into sealed envelopes and a blindfolded elections official selected one out of a bowl. Two years later the winning candidate lost re-election by 0.03% of the vote. In Nova Scotia in 1999 a returning officer broke a tie by pulling a name out of a box. In Alaska in 2006 a coin toss decided the outcome. A coin toss also decided the result in PEI in 2015 when a judicial recount determined a vote had been mistakenly put in the wrong pile. On and on it goes. Each…vote…counts.
If those coins don’t get dropped into fountains they can’t be part of the overall total that goes on to do such good work. If eligible voters don’t go and mark a ballot, they can’t be added to the others to elect good leaders. It’s more than making a wish. It is putting our support behind those we want shaping the future. Something we don’t want to wake up to the morning after an election is disappointment in voter turnout.
In the fountain at the aquarium they retrieved $8,563.71. Some were disappointed by the total. Others were pleasantly surprised since it was never intended to be a wishing well. But each and every coin, in combination with all the others, resulted in resources for the care of animals. Every ballot, in combination with others, gives a mandate to those wanting to serve. What else can you do that is so important yet costs you less than tossing coins into a fountain? On October 26-—vote. On November 9—vote. That’s my outlook.