Art Fishman and Alan Muskovitz

Al Muskovitz questions the idea of coincidences, or “c-o-i-n”-cidences in life due to a few recent encounters with meaningful pennies.

Recent events are leading me to believe there are no coincidences. I’m experiencing more moments where things I’m thinking about intersect with things going on around me. You’ve had that feeling, right?

You think about a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and, almost instantaneously, you receive an incoming call from him. Or perhaps something more dramatic like what I witnessed at a funeral of a friend some years back.

I, along with many others in attendance who talk about it to this day, remember the precise moment the rabbi mentioned our beloved friend’s love for trains — a train, with the rabbi having no forewarning of its approach, appeared out of the distance and rambled by the cemetery. Eerie? Actually, I found it comforting.

This past June 5, just one day prior to the June 6 75th anniversary of D-Day, I was having breakfast with my 92-year-old WWII Jewish War Veteran (JWV) buddy Art Fishman. We were joined by Debi Hollis, the president of the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial, who was updating us on the tribute she is working tirelessly to bring to the grounds of Memorial Park on Woodward in Royal Oak. It will pay homage to the unique contributions the state of Michigan made during WWII, both on the war and home fronts.

As we finished our coffee and discussion, I looked down and noticed a penny on the floor just beside our booth. I’m a penny-picker-upper from way back. Are you familiar with the old tradition of making a wish on a found penny? I do it often and have a collection of “wishes” in a cup at home.

Upon closer inspection, the date on this penny was … 1944. Yes, with a WWII veteran as my witness, I had just found a 75-year-old penny on the eve of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. I’d like to think this was more than a coincidence — it was a “c-o-i-n”-cidence.
On Friday evening the day after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Art Fishman left me a voicemail: “Al, give me a call. I have a story you’re not going to believe.”

It turns out while washing his car Art looked down and saw … a penny. A 1945 penny. 1945, the year WWII ended in Europe. Another “c-o-i-n”-cidence?

On Sunday, June 9, three days after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I attended a Shavuot Yizkor service at Temple Israel. Honored guests that morning were members of the Jewish War Veterans Department of Michigan, who were invited to participate in the morning prayers.

Just days after Memorial and D-Day commemorations, Rabbi Marla Hornsten spoke passionately to the congregation about our beloved JWV and their contributions to our nation. It was the perfect setting to share with her my and Art’s recent historical “penny” currency encounters.

After I gave the rabbi my “2-cents worth,” she said: “Wait here.” She left for a moment and returned with the Temple Israel prayer book, Shema Yisrael, in hand; opening it to a page with a published work of hers about … a penny.

She was inspired to write the passage after witnessing a ritual a family performed about 15 years ago while presiding over an unveiling.

“When we reached the end of the service,” Hornsten said, “they told me that instead of leaving a stone at the grave, their family tradition was to leave a penny. The idea was that we constantly find pennies around us and every time we find one it’s a message or a sign of our loved ones. And so, they leave a penny as a marker that they were there.”

I put a penny on your grave instead of a stone,
Because whenever I see a lost penny on the street, I think of you.
I remember how you used to put a penny in that little dish next to the cash register that’s says, “Give a penny, take a penny.”
How you used to throw your loose change into the case of the street musician even when he was out of tune.
And how you dug deep into your pockets for more than just pennies to help the person on the street.
“Find a penny, pick it up …”
I look for lost pennies because everywhere I look, I see you.
­— Rabbi Marla Hornsten

So is everything I just shared mere “c-o-i-n”-cidences? Perhaps. Though I’d prefer to think of it as “change” you can believe in.

Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker, and emcee. Visit his website at laughwithbigal.com,“Like” Al on Facebook and reach him at amuskovitz@renmedia.us.

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