7: What’s Really Important?

7: What’s Really Important?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

What’s Really Important?

Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion.

~The Talmud

Talk about stress overload. “Here, take all of the money I have,” I sometimes feel like saying. I have worked for more than forty years, and just when I am thinking about retiring in the next few years, the economy drops into the toilet. That’s not fair!

“Lucky” for me, though, I had to have major spinal surgery just before the economy began to get really bad, so I was not totally attuned to the grave nature of the situation around me for a while. I am not an alarmist in the first place, but I am now home every day, watching the stock market drop enormous amounts. And, of course, the television news programs stir the fire even more.

“Let it ride,” I keep telling my friends. Things will eventually turn around.

I am one of the lucky ones, however. That is, so far. I have not lost my home and I think I have enough to ride this recession out, even though I may have to work a little longer.

The last time I had to purchase gasoline it was about $4.30 a gallon. Now gasoline is $2.00 a gallon, but I am too disabled at this point to even drive my car. Sometimes I feel like I would like to drive and drive and drive, just so that I can fill my gasoline tank at such a low price. I guess that would not be downsizing nor saving money though, would it? And how can the cost of gasoline be so low when everything else is skyrocketing?

I also refuse to look at my retirement accounts right now, most of which are in stock and bonds. I get updates in the mail and I don’t even open the envelopes—and there is no way I am going to go online to check it out. I simply don’t want to know. I don’t need the money right now and I don’t want to see all of those tiny little figures. Ignorance is bliss, and I am loving every minute of my ignorance (or that just may be the pain medication).

I have always been a saver. Even as a child I would not spend my allowance on something I really wanted if I would not have any money left over. I would wait to buy that item until I could purchase it and still have some money left. I think Americans would be a lot better off if they lived by the same standards. We live in a society where we think we have to have the latest “toys” without having the money to purchase them, so we open one credit card account after another and get ourselves into debt.

I don’t mean to sound flippant about the economy and the tough times people are going through. The situation is a very serious one, but, perhaps, these rough economic times can teach us all a thing or two about what is really important in life.

The things I have come to love and cherish, and the things which always seem to calm my spirit and soul, are the simple things in life. I would much rather take a peaceful walk at our local nature center than to spend an expensive day being pampered at the spa. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Coke eaten on a picnic bench at our nearby park satisfies me more than dressing up and going out to eat at a fancy and expensive restaurant. And, hey, my car may be seven years old, but it has never given me any problems and it gets me to the same place a brand new Lexus would.

And what makes simple and cost-effective activities much more enjoyable for me is to share them with my family. We love getting together just to share each other’s company. We don’t have to go to a theme park or even to a movie to have a good time. We love watching DVDs, eating popcorn and joking around. We also love to take long walks in nature with our binoculars and our cameras capturing the beauty of God’s creation and taking goofy pictures of ourselves.

I was kidding my fourteen-year-old great-niece the other day, asking her what she was going to get me for Christmas. Her immediate and worried response was that she did not have any money. Amanda is a wonderful poet, so I told her to “just write me a poem entitled, “Aunt LaVerne.” Things, gifts, activities don’t have to involve money. A simple poem from Amanda’s heart will give me warm feelings for the rest of my life, and I hope Amanda learned a lesson from our little encounter as well.

I focus on what I have rather than on what I don’t have in life. Houses, jobs, and health will come and go, but the love and enjoyment of family can sustain me through any kind of situation, including a rough economy.

~LaVerne Otis

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