Mo-ney. For a two-syllable word it's a heavy little thing because regardless of financial circumstances, we all feel its burden in some way. I assume it pesters the poor with want and weights the rich with guilt. Across the board, I think it's most wanted for sparking envy. Sometimes I wish it would vanish and free us all from its sorrier temptations. But more often I'm wishing for more of it as my never ending wish list cycles through my mind like an annoying song that won't leave.
On that note, a few inspiring memories and stories have recently hushed the echoing "me, me, me" that creeps into my world:
As a little boy, my brother once stole from a knick knack store. My parents told us we couldn't buying anything, but together we eyed the toys and goodies anyway. There were handfuls of things we both would’ve liked, but eventually, we reluctantly filed out. As we followed my parents back to the car, my brother pulled something from his pocket—a beautiful necklace—and tenderly gave it to me as a special gift. Even bigger than the lesson on stealing I received after watching him return it, I’ve always been impressed that instead of something for himself, he’d wanted something badly enough for me, to steal it. He was a young boy and obviously didn’t understand the crime in shoplifting, and so I think it’s touching, the big heart in that brother of mine.
In college, I had enough money to cover my living expenses, but sometimes I'd manage it poorly and spend too much on a new outfit or eating out, leaving me short on grocery funds. I can remember once at the end of a two-week pay cycle, having a single loaf of bread to feed me. I wasn’t starving; I just felt lousy after eating bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I was in this type of situation as I trudged home in the snow on a late and bitter evening after an exhausting day on campus. The thought of my empty cupboards awaiting me was depressing. I just wanted a warm dinner. I prayed and prayed that I might find something—anything—to eat. I hoped to find a random can of soup I’d forgotten about or better yet, maybe one of my roommates would be home and want to share their dinner with me. But it was pushing midnight and they were probably asleep already, so that scenario wasn’t too promising.
I was right about my roommates; they were all out for the night. The place was dark, very dark, until I flipped the kitchen light and felt my spirits lift at what was illuminated before me. On the table stood a stack of Tupperware topped with a note addressed to me. Me? I read the note:
I hope you survived your busy day. I felt like I should drop off some dinner leftovers for you. Hopefully they hit the spot. --Steve
I slowly sat down and read the note again and again. Then I dished myself the most warm and hearty meal I’ve ever eaten…mashed potatoes, chicken and vegetables! Nutrition for my churning stomach and sweetness on my tattered spirits! I was struck by God’s generous answer to my prayer, and very grateful. Most impressive to me, though, was my friend’s quick response to a heavenly prompting. Had he not listened, I would’ve been fine, but he did, and it rejuvenated me in boundless ways and has stayed with me always.
Lastly, I recently got an email from my dad while he was in Charlottesville, VA visiting the brother I first mentioned and attending a business conference. He told me that at church in Virginia he met a man who grew up in Cardston, Alberta, Canada and knew my great grandpa and his old theater there. My Great Grandpa Gordon Brewerton would sell this man his movie tickets, but never charged him the full 25-cent price. He’d always give him a discount and hand him a dime back.
Little stories, but here’s the well-known, less-used secret tucked into each: despite how many pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions a person does or doesn’t have, when their mantra is “what can I give to someone else?” the “me” slips right out of the money factor and a person is instantly rich.
This always seems most clear to me in December.
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