… even though we ain't got scratch …
Satisfaction can be found as we recognize the good things already present in our lives. Usually, we’re so busy desiring what we don’t have that we fail to appreciate what we already possess. Sometimes it takes someone else to remind us of just what special gifts we possess.
This can lead into praise and thanksgiving. Once you see your present income and possessions as blessings, you can really consider their best use. Remember, too, that a “blessing” and “happiness” are often synonyms. Individuals who have very little in material wealth but who sense contentment in their life itself are already prosperous in many ways; you may have already learned to delight in “little luxuries,” low-cost and even no-cost splurges that brighten your life or those of your friends and loved ones. Such pleasures allow you to enjoy the splendor of God’s creation. Too much deferred gratification can prevent you from living in “the holy now,” appreciating the moment at hand. Denial of genuine enjoyment can lead into a dour religion or a gloomy existence where you’re blind to the splendor of the lilies of the field.
Lately, I’ve found myself telling my wife, “It’s not a bad life, is it” – despite the latest disasters and confrontations. We look at something that’s gone right. Sit down together. See that the goldfinches have returned to the sunflowers or the red wiggler worms to the compost. The house needs painting, we’re rich in weeds (some of which will flower), we have four cords of firewood seasoning, the lawn’s newly mowed, one daughter just graduated from college, the other’s starting another year of high school. It’s a balancing act, after all.
When one friend asked her grown children to join her in examining the question, “How much is enough,” they decided to establish a small foundation. Its mission is to provide grants that enable individuals to pursue a spiritual action – periods of travel, teaching, study, documentary-making are among the varied pursuits it has supported. While she could have simply handed out the money to those who asked, the decision to work through the foundation, I think, liberates both the donor and the applicant. The transaction is more equal. She’s freed from arbitrary choices, from a fear of slighting or offending people, from establishing an amount. The applicant gains footing by having to draft a proposal, present it to a board, and express how this will benefit not just the applicant but others as well. The process has resulted in a high level of satisfaction, all the way around.
William Blake, in his Proverbs of Hell, poses this question: “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.” Composer Eve Beglarian, in a recent musical setting of the text, answers with a Bach chorale of thanksgiving and praise, in German.
In their workshops, Barbara and Mary sometimes divided participants into three smaller discussion circles, based on individual responses to the query, “Do I have enough money for my needs and desires?” The first circle was for those who felt they didn’t have enough. In the second, those who were satisfied. In the third, those who had more than enough. Once again, shared discussion becomes empowering. You’re not alone in your what are ultimately holy – and holistic – confrontations.
Now ask yourself:
Do I deserve to have enough money in my life?
Let me suggest it’s like asking, “Do I deserve to smell the roses?”
If you don’t feel you deserve blessings – another word for happiness – you have some healing to do. Your work is valuable. You should be compensated accordingly. Children will rarely thank you for all that you’ve done, and may jobs won’t pay what you deserve, no matter how self-effacing you are. Still, you’ve identified values you want to extend to make the world a better place. Why shouldn’t you have resources to do it? You want to help others. You can’t do it alone. There’s no shame in honest wealth.
Some evangelical Christians who have looked intently at money issues find that writing a small “thank you” on every check can be liberating. It expresses gratitude for the exchange that has taken place, and for the very fact of having an income to use. This small touch can become an empowering habit, expressing the concept of stewardship and blessing. We’re not being victimized when we pay our bills. Some even see this as a second time of appreciating the purchase or service. “Oh, yes, I remember dining there,” or, “I’m sure glad we the repairman could come then.”
Others have even transformed the way they pray. Instead of requesting a change, they thank God that it’s already happening in their lives. Rather than asking for a life’s partner, for example, they might express gratitude for the companion who’s already on the way to meet them. Others have spoken of praying for God to provide the gift itself – asking that the $100 appear for a certain donation, for instance, and then unexpectedly opening a dividend check from the insurance company covering the requested amount. Wouldn’t that alter your outlook!
After leading the first series of workshops, I received a note: “My thoughts on money are simple. … As long as I can provide a roof over my head, food on the table, and a new pair of jeans every three years for dress-up, I never give money a thought. If everyone gave more of their love, they wouldn’t have time to think if they should think about money.” Before you dismiss this as superficial or irresponsible, let me add that when it comes to the details of handling money, this woman is one of the savviest and most detail-oriented people I know – and one of the most generous. The more I look at it, the more I see she’s right.