What a week! I don’t mean that in a good way either. Well, actually it was a pretty good week in the way of encounters and interactions with people. I learned new things. I accomplished some jobs which had been waiting for me for a long time. But if the week were put into one of those old style balances, the kind with two platforms, one on either side of a fulcrum, I think the negative side would be hanging down a lot lower than the positive.
What happened? Who’s to blame for this negativity, this pessimism? If you must know, I’m pretty sure the blame lies with the guy typing these words out on his keyboard. It seems that a few unwise business choices, more than a little procrastination, and one or two (or several more) instances of misguided benevolence may have converged to form a financial situation with which I’m not happy. You see, last week we had to pay a sum of money to the government in the form of taxes. That in itself isn’t such a strange occurrence. It’s just that the amount we paid was much more than expected. No, even more than that. Thus, my dark mood.
What we discovered, to put is simply, is that we have too much junk. Not too much money. I’m not sure that could ever happen. My memory goes back to the financial adviser who once stood in my church and made the statement, “I know just how much money every single one of you needs.” As we stared at him in disbelief, he continued, “A little bit more!” And, of course, he was right. We’ll always take a little more; will always believe that happiness lies just one pay-grade above us; will always convince ourselves with the myth that just that next step will be all we’ll ever need. It will never happen.
No, I don’t have too much money, just too much stuff. We bought too much inventory last year and the government thinks that an inventory gain is profit. Now I’ve never known a bank that would let me deposit a trumpet like hundred dollar bills, but to the IRS it is the same thing. Thus it was that we signed the checks to empty the bank accounts last week, surrounded by inventory which the Lovely Lady will never in a million years be able to make into a tasty enough meal to tempt me. I would almost say that I am depressed. Oh, not in a clinical way. It’s just that I can’t make myself see a return on that money, can’t consider it an investment which will pay back any financial dividend. I’m really not happy.
The thought of inventory in my store being the same as money got me thinking, though. Many in the world think of all of us as rich. Our culture counts riches as dollars in the bank. The rest of the world looks at all the accoutrements with which we surround ourselves and considers us wealthy beyond belief. We look at a number; a million, a billion, fifty billion…to determine how wealthy the man is. Most people around the globe look at the belongings and marvel at our wealth. Two sets of silverware? What madness is this? Many never hold a utensil in their hands. Ten, twenty, fifty pairs of shoes? Is it possible? One pair, repaired and patched over and over again is all most can claim. Walk-in closets packed with clothes for each season and every occasion? Wealth beyond their wildest dreams! Food to throw away after a meal? Foolishness! Their children go to bed crying with hunger and they themselves go without the nourishment they need, simply to keep those children alive.
I’m not writing this to make you feel guilty (it accomplishes that though, doesn’t it?), but simply to help us understand that sometimes a change in perspective can be beneficial. I’m feeling sorry for myself because there are fewer numbers to look at when I glance at the bank statement today. Funny…I had clothes without holes in them with which to cover my body this morning. An amazing repast offered by the Lovely Lady weighed down the table at dinner time this afternoon. I took a Sunday afternoon nap in comfort as I reclined in front of an entertaining football game on the big-screen TV (I think it was entertaining, but really don’t remember). I could go on, but you get the picture. Cars, clothes, food, stereos, cameras, homes…the list is endless. Our wealth is astounding. We are blessed beyond belief.
It’s trite, I know. You have problems and don’t have time to be reminded that you’ve been blessed. I don’t really understand why it is so much easier to focus on the negatives than on the overarching positives, but we do it continually. I know I do. Sick children, aging parents, errant pets, demanding customers; these and many other niggling problems weigh on my mind and rob me of joy every day.
Can I be trite for a moment more? I love the advice that Bing Crosby offered in a musical way in the old movie “White Christmas”. It seems stupid until you stop and get a little shift in perspective. “When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.” We are blessed beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world! How is that not worth remembering? And celebrating?
The government can have the dirty old dollars. I’ve got the Lovely Lady. And my children. And grandchildren. And friends (not just “close friends and acquaintances” on Facebook either, thank you!). I’ve even got a brain that functions passably well (for now). And, the grace of a loving Creator has been showered upon me and all who accept it. I don’t have any stuff or any sum of money worth more than those.
I’m guessing you don’t either.
“The question for each man to settle is not what he would do if he had means, time, influence, and educational advantages, but what he will do with the things he has.”
(Hamilton Wright Mabie~American essayist~1846-1916)
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings”
(Henry Ward Beecher~American minister~1813-1887)