On a long 2,000 mile car trip across the country recently, I found myself with some time to think. Car trips can be good that way. Somewhere along the way I found myself thinking about money and how we have come to place such value on something which is, in actuality, paper. Yes, I know theoretically it is supposed to represent a certain amount of gold which is stored at Fort Knox. But the reality is we have all collectively decided to place value on these pieces of paper that we offer for goods and services.
What if suddenly we all decided money was no longer valuable? What if we no longer placed value on these pieces of paper? What would happen to all these people who had previously been accorded so much status simply because of these pieces of paper they had in their bank accounts? Would they suddenly become no more important than the men who pick up our garbage each week? Perhaps they’d actually be less important because society would realize that some of the wealthiest people in the country may not actually do much to serve the greater good. Perhaps suddenly we would have renewed respect for those who collect our trash and those who grow our food and those who teach our children. Maybe we’d learn to place value on completely different things.
I’ve also been pondering the value of all the possessions I’ve been moving from one place of residence to another. (Something I seem to be doing rather a lot of in recent years.) I have learned this past year that I can live with relatively few possessions. Likewise, I have friends who have moved back to the States from Costa Rica and Ecuador, respectively. Both friends returned with only a few suitcases of possessions. We all marvel at how little we actually need to own (and cart around with us!) When I rent a furnished home, all I really need fits in one car. And although I have books and paintings and plants that I really enjoy, the fact is, I don’t need to own them. I actually need own very little in order to survive and be happy.
What do you most value? What would you most miss if you didn’t have it?
When I was driving and I got to the Midwest, I began hearing more country songs on the radio. What I began to appreciate about many of the songs I was hearing was the songwriters’ appreciation for the simple things in life. I heard at least two songs which mentioned feeling grateful for “a roof over my head and shoes on my feet.” How often do we forget to appreciate the most basic things?
What do you most value?
If you’re thinking of possessions, I urge you to broaden your thinking. Here is what I most value:
- Clean air,
- Pure drinking water,
- A healthy earth in which to plant food,
- A place of shelter,
- The people (and animals) I love.
The first four items on my list ensure physical survival. The last three things ensure emotional and spiritual health. Sure, I could survive without beauty, but my spirit would wither. Sure, I could survive with people telling me what I could and could not do, but it would not be a very pleasant existence. And what’s the point of any of the above if there is no one with whom to share it all? We all need someone to care about us, to love, to keep us company, to talk with.
I submit that if we suddenly had no money in this world, our sense of what is valuable would shift considerably. Suddenly we’d all be hungering for fertile land with good supplies of clean water, and either places of shelter or materials from which shelter could be built. If we get back to the basics, this is all we really need. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
Let’s put things in perspective. Let’s be grateful for the simple things. A roof over our head, shoes on our feet, clean water to drink, good food to eat, and someone to love.