Why not learn to enjoy the little things – there are so many of them - Author Unknown
I wasn’t particularly alarmed by my husband’s words. After all, he had gone without a salary in the past, and we had always made do. Mentally, I congratulated ourselves that we had no debt outside the mortgage on our home.
With two partners, my husband owned a small engineering firm. When times were tight, he and his partners went without paychecks, making certain their employees were paid. I was grateful to be married to such an honorable man.
Two weeks passed, then four, then six, all with no salary in sight. The bills arrived with depressing regularity, though, and we lived off our savings, a spotty food storage, and faith in the Lord.
The fall of 2008 marked an economic downturn for the entire country. Caught in the spiral, clients who had always paid on time in the past now failed to pay their bills.
Christmas approached and I wondered how we would find the means to buy even small presents. I didn’t mention this to my husband, knowing he had worry enough on his mind. I searched bargain bins and put my creativity to work.
In the meantime, I joined freecycle.com, an international organization devoted to preventing more items from ending up in already overburdened landfills. As a freecycle member, I could post items online that I no longer needed or wanted and other members could respond. In the same way, I could answer others’ posts if I saw something I needed.
Four weeks into our doing without a salary, I noticed two messages listing pantry items. I e-mailed back immediately, saying that my family could really use the food.
In freecycle, the first person to answer a listing is usually the one who receives it. When I noticed the time the listings were posted, my heart sank. Several hours had passed.
Surely the items had already been taken.
To my surprise and delight, both freecyclers e-mailed me, saying that the food was mine. They gave me their addresses, and we arranged a pick-up time.
I went through the boxes of food like a child opening presents on Christmas morning. Cans of vegetables. Potato flakes. A cake mix. Even fresh fruit. My husband, teenage daughter (the only child remaining at home), and I feasted that night!
A quick friendship developed between an older lady and myself. She gave me other foodstuffs when she had more than she needed. I drove her to various stores and did errands for her, as she was unable to drive. We sent each other inspirational messages and discovered we had much in common, including a deep faith in our Creator.
My membership in freecycle encouraged me to clean out clothes, books, and household goods that we no longer used. As I uncluttered my house, I felt as though I were also uncluttering my soul, ridding it of old grudges, resentments, and fears.
I wrote our four adult children, explaining our situation.
I also mentioned that we would be cutting back on Christmas presents that year and suggested they do the same. As a gentle hint, I told them that the best present they could give their father and me was to get out of debt.
In previous years, I had kept a gratitude journal. Every day I had recorded things, both large and small, for which I was grateful. As frequently happens with good habits, this one slipped away in the busy-ness of life. I revived it, listing five things every night as I wrote in my journal.
Small occurrences found their way into my gratitude journal. A shiny penny found during a walk. A letter from a friend. An unexpected phone call from a long-distance relative. A hug from my usually standoffish teenage daughter. The feeling of sunshine on my face.
Everyday things became a cause for rejoicing. When was the last time I had been thankful for a washing machine and dryer?
When had I last given thanks for friends who listened to my complaints without sharing their own? (Shamed, I resolved to mend that nasty habit). When had I last thanked God for a strong body, even though it wasn’t in the shape or condition I desired?
My priorities began to shift. I stopped thinking of what I didn’t have and began to think more of what I did. At the same time, I looked around and realized that others were suffering as well. I took time to send notes to friends and church members who needed an extra dose of love. I prayed more and complained less. I counted my blessings.
Our financial situation hadn’t changed, but my attitude had.
Nearly eight weeks had passed since my husband had received a paycheck and Christmas was upon us. I had managed to buy and make modest presents for family and friends. I refused to give in to the temptation to apologize for the humbleness of the gifts, knowing those who loved me would understand and accept my offerings.
One evening my husband returned home, a wide grin stretching across his face. “Money came in the mail”. He went on to explain that one of his customers, also a victim of the slow economy, had sent a long overdue check.
We had gone nearly two months without a paycheck. Not only had we survived, we had thrived.
I took stock of our lives: we had friends, family, and faith. We were rich indeed.
- Jane McBride Choate