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When I was little, we used to sing a song during the holidays about giving a penny to those in need

Christmas is coming

The goose is getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat

If you have no penny

A half-penny will do

If you have no half-penny then

God bless YOU

Even to our juvenile minds in the 1970s, the value of a penny seemed so insignificant that the fat goose was more of the focus of our musical curiosity (goose was not a traditional holiday meal in our family)

Like many people over the past year, we’ve become penny-pinchers.  Supporting a farm and trying to launch a new business within the worst recession in almost 100 years has been both challenging and stressful.

Despite our own concerns about whether the mortgage on the farm would be paid and how much heating the house would cost this winter, our mission to support as many local craftsmen and artists as we could remained steadfast.

We had long-admired the work of our neighbor Michael Whaling.  He has a photographic memory for every fallen tree branch and every over-turned stone for what seems like a 100 mile radius of Schoharie County.   More amazingly, he uses them to fabricate incredible works of art.

Although we were not in the position to commission any masterpieces, we did want to bring Michael’s talents to Beekman Farm and enlisted his help in building an authentically-crafted rock wall around what has become our heirloom vegetable garden.  We worked out a payment plan, and as we could scrape together extra money, we would hand it over to Michael.  He would write us receipts on scraps of paper.

One day recently, I heard someone pull the string that rings the old doorbell at the side door of the house.

I was surprised to see Michael standing on the porch.  It was a cold, rainy day, not conducive to continuing work on the wall.

“I have something I want to give to you,” he said.

“Ok”, I responded.  Thinking it was an invoice for the work he had completed over the last several weeks.

“Many years ago, I was standing in the area of what would eventually become the town library.  I was kicking around the dirt with the toe of my boot when I saw what I thought was an odd green stone.  When I bent over to pick it up, I realized that it was a penny.  After I cleaned it off, I saw the date,  ‘1819’.

He placed the penny in my hand.

“You have done so much for me and the Sharon Springs community over the last year, that I wanted you to have this.  It’s very likely that this penny passed through William Beekman’s own hands as he was standing behind the counter of his mercantile.”

With that he said, “I’ll be back to work on the wall on the next sunny day”.  He hopped in his  red truck , his ever-patient dog next to him on the seat, and drove away.

I walked back into the house rubbing the smooth, shiny surface of the large piece of copper resting in the palm of my hand.  I think I may have even cried a little bit.

His simple gesture came with a lesson.   No matter the difficulties facing us all currently, in addition to counting pennies we must still make the time to count our blessings.

Of which there are many.

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by Dr. Brent

Reader Comments

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KATHY BUNTING

I just came across this story today while looking for information on Michael Whaling. Wonderful! It gave me chills to think the coin may have passed through William Beekman's hands. Thank you for sharing your stories with us!

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kathleen

I just found your site today. Loved your story,I too remember the jingle from my childhood must be my Irish nanny. Last summer we visted Helen And Scott Nearing's home in Maine, they built a beautiful stone wall around their garden,which stands today. One of their books shows it and the greenhouse they built.

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Christy

You only act like you don't have feelings dear! Every blog I've read, your heart has been front and center! Great job!

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Ken

Great story filled with meaning and a life lesson. Isn't it interesting how a small gesture can take you by surprise?

Peace.

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August Fulenwider

I am crying. This is the second post of yours that has brought tears to my eyes, the first being about the little boy and his poster.

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Robin Jurczak

Here's an instance of when "a hay-penny will do. Thank you for sharing, Brent. We love your show. I hope your neighbors will experience lots of interest and business as a result of you and Josh's labors. Love to you both!

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Jac

Hi Brent!

My sister and I love your show. You two are the cutest couple. We wish you a ton of success on the business, the Beekman, and life in general. By the way, Farmer John is hilarious. Can't wait to see the next episode!

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Rob McClaine

Pinching pennies and praying for the best has become part of our lives too. It is so good to hear your stories! I am just now becoming acquainted with all things Beekman. I did stumble across some of your YouTube Videos several months ago, but it was not until I saw The Fabulous Beekman Boys trailer on Planet Green that my interest peaked. I guess that my husband Alex and I thought that we were the only two gay guys crazy enough to long for the country life. Our situation is far different that yours of course, but the underlying theme is similar. We are just getting started from scratch on 8.5 acres of raw land in the Redwood Forest overlooking the Monterey Bay on the Pacific Coast of California. It will be interesting to see how things unfold for us. Dr. Brent you will give me a great remedy (laughter being medicine) for all my stress by watching what you’ve gone through. Sounds like Michael’s penny was for more than your thoughts, but stands for the blindness of true love and caring from good neighbors and a beautiful community across time.

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Joe Geppert

Thank you for this story. I carry a lucky penny in my pocket from my great grandfather that he told me his great grandfather gave him as boy. I'm sorry I'm late to the game but I enjoy your blogs. Joe

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Roger Swayze

Hi Brent:

I used to sing with the Portland Gay Men's Chorus and we performed that song as part of our holiday program in 1991. That Christmas was very special as it was the last I shared with my partner before he passed away.

I enjoyed reading of your experience with it and for the joy-filled memories which go with such a simple but meaningful tune and the act of sharing a penny in the way that Michael did. The comments shared by other blog readers about this gift penny have touched me as well.

I wish you and Josh much happiness and good health together!

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Mary Whaling Nicolay

Your comments about my wonderful cousin Mike were so appreciated. From childhood he has been a most thoughtful and empatheic person. He always shared what he could.

He thinks what you are accomplishing on the farm is wonderful. You are two very special people in his life and talks of you often. I have enjoyed reading your blogs.

Mary Whaling

Melbourne Village, Florida

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Nancy Tokar

What a wonderful gesture indeed!

I know that really made your day!

A Happy,Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

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Linda Rodriguez

My grandmother used to sing that song to us!! She was from Belfast, Ireland. Wonderful story. I miss my grandmother. Thank you for reminding me of her 🙂

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Rev. Dr. Bob Wright

Your penny's thought is worth a million; no, it's priceless. God bless you and all those who haven't a half penny too.

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Linda Turner

What a special gift…it represents your acceptance at the house and in Sharon Springs. You're home now…….

And isn't it great to just sit back holding that penny and imagine Judge Beekman standing there, greeting customers as they enter his shop, taking in the sights on the street. Horse drawn-carriages (or sleighs) and ladies with their full-length skirts, perhaps purchasing some calico fabric to finish their quilts….sounds like a scene from Currier & Ives. A full life taking care of home and family, knowing much less about the world, but working hard to provide food, shelter and daily necessities, not easy but a good way to appreciate everything you have.

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Andrew

How beautiful, Brent. It reminds me of those priceless, timeless gestures that really get to the heart of what this season is all about. When I was a child, my mom used to write us Christmas messages on the paper napkins she’d pack with our school lunches: sweet little reminders that she loved us and that we’d have hot chocolate together when we got home from school. Those messages are more memorable and beautiful than any gadget or toy I received on Christmas Day. (That penny is so beautiful!)

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