Leave it to the elderly and the little ones to ground you and bring you back down exactly where you need to be. My parents are out of town again, so I’m back on grandpa duty. It’s really not a duty, it’s a privilege to help care for him, especially when he tells his stories. Yesterday I took Luke and Liza with me to visit, and he told us about how poor he was when he was a student. He had been raised in Idaho, but wanted to come to Utah State University for school. It was in the middle of the Great Depression, and no one had any money. He didn’t know tuition would be different for out of state students, and half way through the first semester someone came knocking, looking for the extra tuition. How much? $50.
Well, grandpa said he didn’t have the $50 and there was no way for him to pay it, so they offered to let him work it off. He cleaned the chemistry laboratory every night – cleaned all the beakers and other glass implements. I asked how long it took him to work off the $50 and he said it took all term. I think that may be a tad below minimum wage these days!
He told me about his “student housing”. It was a small, single garage that someone had converted to an apartment for three students. It had a double bed in it, with a small hotplate. They would soak a couple of cups of beans each night. Then in the morning, they would mix it with a can of tomatoes and some water and cook it all day long on that hot plate. It was done by the time they got home from school. That was all they ate for dinner, and then they had the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.
Shaking his head he said, “if anyone around here complains about being poor, I’ll be happy to share just what being poor means.” He said they had so little, but everyone did, so they all figured out how to get by with nothing.
I didn’t realize how close Liza was listening to this story. When we got into the car to go home, she said, “Mom, I don’t need anything for Christmas. I have so much already. I think I just want to give this year.” What?? I had to check the rear view mirror to make sure it was really a 7 year old sitting there. She had gotten the true message in grandpa’s story, and had realized how blessed she was.
Like I said, leave it to grandpa and Liza to put me in my place. It’s true. I don’t need a thing for Christmas this year. I could give away half of what I own and still have more than I really need. So it got me thinking about two things. First – we are going light and simple with gifts this year. Many people have heard a variation of the tradition of giving three gifts:
- A wish
- A want
- A need
..and I’m adding
- something to read.
It will simplify my shopping, their wish lists and be much easier on the pocket book. Why do we stress ourselves and our bank accounts so much for things that we could do without?
Second, I realized there is one thing that we are all in need of – each others time. This is what I’m going work so hard to give this holiday season. I am often so busy running around, “doing” things, that I often don’t give the priceless gift of time. Some examples from this week are sitting and talking with grandpa, making a gingerbread house with Luke and Liza and working side by side with my husband in the yard. I don’t need to spend money to show my love.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas, rethink your shopping lists, slow down, and share the one thing that really matters to our loved ones – our time. I want to hear all of your blessing and giving stories! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Dr. Michelle Jorgensen
PS If you have unused insurance or flex spending dollars, call next week to schedule. We are filling up fast for the end of the year rush!