Thursday, July 7, 2011

Frugality, Humanity & Money

I started reading a book this morning called Frugal Luxuries. I have found many books like this that come to me at the most perfect of moments. It's been sitting on the floor by my bookshelf for a while (the shelves are overflowing at the moment) and I almost forgot I had it until this morning.

For a few years, I've been trying to pay attention to the small comforts of life. My husband and I made a hammock stand last year and I try to relax in it as much as I can (although, I have to admit, it's not as often as I would like.) I've also been making sun tea for ourselves and to sell at our local Farmers Market. And the simple fact that I get to sit outside all morning at my booth at the Farmers Market has become a simple pleasure. I enjoy eating freshly made food at home and singing along with my Jazz CD while I clean or do the dishes.

I think that much of the reason why I've been thinking about Frugality and Simple Pleasures so much recently is a response to the political climate of America right now. There are so many Americans who believe that the American Dream includes XBoxes and Wiis and having a computer and internet access in every home. I know that they also believe that it includes a simple roof over your head and bread on the table. And if you don't have those things than you have a "lower standard of living".

I understand how hard it must be to struggle each day to put food on the table for yourself and your family. I don't mean to say that it's not. But people today act like this is something new. Humans have been struggling to survive ever since we were created. But I think today more than ever in our history humans have started to feel poor. I spoke with an older friend the other day about what it was like for her growing up. She said that her family still had an outhouse and that she received one new dress a year that her mom made out of rice bags. I asked her if she ever felt poor and she said no.

Today most of the poor among us have apartments with running water and they get new clothes multiple times a year. Our homeless even have the ability to sleep at a shelter and eat soup most days. Yet political groups who fight for them will have you believe that the poor and homeless have nothing, that they don't even have ability to make their lives better, that their lives are so horrible that the only solution is for the rest of us to give them lots of money. And on top of that they make the rest of us feel guilty for having more.

I'm all for charity. I believe that sometimes people just need some help. But that is not what these politicians and special interest groups are suggesting. What I hear is that they believe that poor people have no resources or ability or talents or power to make their lives better so the only way they will survive is through handouts. And I think that's a load of malarkey.

I'm getting a bit off track here. To tie things together I will give you a short story about frugality in action. In the book, Frugal Luxuries, it says that the word frugal came from two Latin words, frugalis and frux. They actually mean success. Today we would define frugal as a combination of spending your money wisely and turning the ordinary things into extraordinary things. John, a friend of mine, lives on a street in front of a river that goes through our town. One day he was coming home from work and as he pulled into his driveway he noticed a man sitting in the middle of the road. As he looked closer he realized that the man was leaning against a crate with his legs stretched out in front of him and a beer in his right hand. This man was homeless but at that moment he was completely at his ease, enjoying a beer while watching the sun set. At that moment that homeless man was the richest man in town.

Now, tell me how many times you think Bill Gates or Donald Trump have watched the sun set. With as busy as those two men are I doubt it's very often. And if Bill and that homeless man were enjoying the same sunset at the same time would there have been any difference between the two?

If money isn't everything. If money doesn't buy happiness then why are we so quick to assume that it's the answer to everything? I admit, I am a capitalist. I enjoy making things that people buy. But really the money is just a side effect of creating things I love to create. There are people in this world who really only care about money but I believe they are few. The plenty are the people who just love to create and give people what they want and need and in return they receive money from their customers.

The ability to create what you love and earn money for it doesn't lie only within the rich and powerful. It lies within all of us for the simple fact that we are all human. Humanity is what gives each of us the ability to grow our own food, cook dinner from scratch, darn our own clothing instead of buying new and enjoy sunsets even if we don't have a roof over our heads. This is what we are capable of. Politicians and special interest groups who tell us otherwise should be removed from office.

Until we all understand the art of frugality and humanity we will always feel poor in one way or another.

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