I hope that 2017 has been treating you kindly, thus far! After sharing scores of conversations with friends over the holidays, I have realized that a central theme is finances. Time off work (with or without holiday pay), Christmas, birthdays and having money for activities over the school break can be stressful. The bills have a way of arriving straight after Christmas, and demand attention! Some of my loved ones have confided that they feel judged as they balance their commitments. Instead of being given a pat on the back, encouraged that they are doing good by keeping afloat, they have been looked down on. Nobody knows what goes on behind the scenes in other’s lives. Nobody gets to see the sacrifices. Forgoing a script so that your child can have fruit. Forgoing a dental visit so that your child can see a movie with friends. Commendable sacrifices that nobody but you know of.
I wish that we would give each other a break, and listen to the subtle nuances in another’s speech. If they hesitate to make plans, suggest something that doesn’t require expenditure. Set up a tent in the back yard for the kids to camp out in. Set up a sprinkler so they can cool off. Have a sleepover, go for walks, offer dinner at your place. The relief will be palpable! Often, people want to connect, but don’t have the money for dinners and other expenses. It is summer, and we all want to be outdoors, enjoying it. It doesn’t require money.
Being aware of other’s commitments is a kindness on your part. Your worth and theirs isn’t reliant on how much free cash they have in January. It is the integrity of their heart, their capacity for love and sacrifice. Their warmth and their friendship. I had the privilege of going to see a young couple with two kids. The children don’t want for anything and have sturdy role models. The dad can look at a varied assortment of food in their kitchen, and put together an incredible meal. They grow their own vegetables and rarely go out to restaurants. They sacrifice and have made a joyful life for their little family. One of the happiest nights of my life was shared in their company, over a simple meal. I listened to their plans and hopes, and am sure that they will accomplish them all.
As I pay my bills this month, I will give thanks that I am able to do so. There may be trips to the beach and local swimming pool, but there will be more time at home, having friends over and getting back to basics. I will acknowledge the friends who sacrificed to give their family a good Christmas, and who forgoes personal necessities in order to give to their child. These are the sort of people you want in your life. As with everything in this whirlwind life, a tightened belt doesn’t last forever, but the fond memories of how one coped and had fun doing so, will remain.