Has this ever happened to you; you put on a pair of jeans you hadn’t worn in a while and unexpectedly, you find money in the pockets???  

This has happened to me a couple of times…

Sometimes when I get change from a quick purchase, instead of putting the money in my wallet, I put it in my pocket, and forget about it…days later I find the money and it makes me happy; it is an unexpected bonus.

It seems to me that there are similarities between leap day and the money you find unexpectedly in your pockets.  Leap day -much like the money we find unexpectedly in our pockets- is not something that “magically appears”…it is time that has been stored up and emerges at one point in time. 

Leap Year Explained

In the gregorian calendar, the years are mostly 365 days long.  This period of 365 days should coincide with the time that it takes for the earth to circle once around the sun.  However, in practice it takes the earth 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds to complete its trajectory around the sun.  So for three years, the extra hours are stored up and put away. On the fourth year, this extra-time -which now adds up to one whole day- appears in the calendar on February 29, which is leap day…a bonus day in the year.  

It is funny how much people enjoy leap year…it is the perception of an “extra day” that makes it special…much like the perception of the “extra money” makes me happy when I find unexpectedly some change in my pockets.

Perceptions and Values

Leap day illustrates how our perception affects the value we ascribe to things, and in turn affects the way we experience events in our lives.  February 29 is considered a “special day” in the calendar, even though it is nothing more than the extra six hours leftover in the past four years.  

This phenomenon was discussed by Dan Ariely in his book “Predictably Irrational”.  Through his experiments on behavioral economics, Ariely found that what we perceive to have value can affect our lives in concrete and significant ways.  In chapter 11 of the book, Ariely describes one particular experiment, where  students were given the same medication at different prices; one group was given the medication at 2.50 dollars a pill, and the next group was given the EXACT SAME medication at .10 cents a pill.  

Even though the medication was the exact same chemical composition, the reported relief resulting from this medication among the two groups was drastically different; ALL of the students who paid the “expensive” price for the pill reported pain relief, while only half of the students who took the “cheap” medication reported pain relief.  The experiment -according to Ariely – demonstrates how our perceptions, and the value we ascribe to things can drastically affect our concrete experiences.

It is a pity, that people who took good quality medication were prevented from experiencing the fullness of its benefits because of their perceptions of this medication as “cheap”.  The truth is, that sometimes we may perceive that are affordable and available as “cheap” but in reality…they might be very valuable.

That Which is Truly Valuable

Recently, a similar story about a study on perception, taste and priorities was circulating the web. According to this story, the Washington Post arranged for Joshua Bell, a world renowned Violinist, to play his 3.5 Million Dollar violin at the metro-station in Washington D.C.  Just a few days before, Bell had sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.  However that day in the subway, barely anyone stopped to listen…

The report on the experiment describes how this famous violinist played for 45 minutes, and during this time, it was mostly the children who wanted to stop and enjoy the performance…but the parents rushed them along.  Out of the approximately 1000 people who walked by during this time, nobody recognized Bell, or even worse, none of the adults appreciated the value of his music.  Why?  Probably because their perception of what should be valuable prevented them from appreciating the real value of the performance.  

This experiment brings to my mind the passage in Luke 10:17 where Jesus said to his disciples; I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Perhaps what Jesus was referring to in this verse, is the quality of children that was displayed in the example of Joshua Bell…Children were the ones who took the time to appreciate that which is truly valuable, and made room to allow the transcendent into their lives.    

Lent and Leap Year

In a similar fashion to Joshua Bell’s music in the D.C. metro,  the book of Proverbs, chapter 8 describes how God’s wisdom is readily available for all of us…calling to us like a street performer.

1 Does not wisdom call out?   Does not understanding raise her voice? 

2 On the heights along the way,   where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 

3 beside the gates leading into the city,   at the entrances, she cries aloud: 

4 “To you, O men, I call out;   I raise my voice to all mankind…. 

6 Listen, for I have worthy things to say;   I open my lips to speak what is right…. 

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,   knowledge rather than choice gold,11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,   and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Lent this year began exactly one week before leap day…on ash Wednesday.  May this time be a time where we stop to appreciate that which is truly valuable and readily available for us…God’s grace, his love, and his wisdom in our lives given freely through Jesus Christ.