Friday, May 14, 2010

Everything but money

    Money is tight.  Tim and I have never known a time in our marriage when money hasn’t been tight, but these days it is even worse than normal.  Tim hasn’t been getting many hours at his second job.  In fact, his hours have been almost cut in half in the last few weeks and, of course, as soon as there is less money coming in, the unexpected expenses seem to increase.   This has led to a few heated discussions, a lot of creative meal planning, and a bit more stress in the house.  This morning,  I was trying to make the grocery list and, once again, creatively plan our meals for the upcoming week but I wasn’t feeling very creative.   How many nights can you eat spaghetti before you are just plain sick of it, I wondered.    As I sat there, watching the baby play and pondering our food options a book on the bookshelf caught my eye. 
    A few years ago my grandmother had given my daughter a few old books of hers.  The books are full of people’s personal stories of life in the Great Depression and one of them is entitled, We had everything but money.  It may seem unusual that these books were given to a child of, at that time, about 9 years old but my daughter loves history, loves books, and loves to hear old stories so for her, it was a perfect gift.  Anyway, I put aside my grocery list and pulled the book out.   The stories were all about family life, pulling together in tough times, and doing without luxuries, without feeling like they were doing without at all.   The “author’s” of each little story were writing about their own memories, years and years past the time of the Depression. The book was actually published in 1992 (by Reiman Publications, in case you are interested in getting a copy), but none of the stories spoke of it being a time of hardship or depression.  Instead their struggles were seen as opportunities to depend on their friends and neighbors, to help each other out, to live their lives more simply with family at the center.  It all seemed quite idyllic. 
    I am sure the reality was not really so ideal.  I am sure there were moments of worry and stress, maybe even resentment, that life was so challenging.  But, in the end, they felt better for having endured the struggles and they remembered the good times.  They appreciated what they did have, which was the love of their family and a commitment to making the best of a bad situation. 
    This country has come a very long way since the Great Depression, but in all honesty, I am not sure we are doing as well as they did back then.  No one seems to value the simple things in life quite as much as they used to.   Neighbors don’t depend on each other anymore.  I don’t know too many people who even believe you can have everything if you don’t have money.  I, myself, get way too frustrated when I can’t afford to splurge on an extra little treat at the grocery store or an occasional frappucino at Starbucks.   Those things are nice, of course, but the truth is what I really want is a happy family who works together.  Those families in the Great Depression realized that the things that mattered most were strong relationships and well-ordered priorities.  When they focused on family and friends, money seemed a lot less important.  Today, what our country needs most is a return to those priorities.  With the economy going the way it is we just might get to learn that the hard way, like our grandparents did, but even if not, I am grateful for the little reminder.   No matter what happens with the economy of the country, I pray my own children will remember our “lean” times, not for the spaghetti dinners we were eating twice a week but for the love and strength that saw us through it.

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