When enough is enough

There is much satisfaction in living on less
Apr 28, 2013

As I was listening to a recent sermon in church, it got me thinking about early childhood lessons as well as truths my husband and I have picked up through the years.

The Rev. Chuck Wilson was speaking on the “Ten Commandments for Wise Financial Living,” but I found it to be more of a recipe for living a satisfied life. Wilson spoke of his early childhood lessons that came with his allowance — give 10 percent, save 10 percent and live on the rest.

For me, the giving part came later on, but frugality and saving were stressed always. It’s been a trait that has come in handy time and again — saving for college, juggling a job and school, putting together a nest egg for our first home or building our small farming operation without going into debt.

For some reason, a trip to the grocery store with three of my college roommates 30 years ago is still a vivid memory. We all were from small towns and families with modest means, and we needed to find something that would provide evening meals for most of the week.

We agreed on homemade vegetable soup and pooled our money, down to the pennies, to buy zucchini, celery, potatoes, onion and carrots. It still remember how good that soup tastes, and to this day we enjoy a pot of soup at least monthly. Now we are lucky enough to have have our home-raised ground beef to use in the base, and most of our own vegetables as ingredients. To make matters even sweeter, my husband has learned to make it so well he is now the chief vegetable soup maker.

The “giving” lesson Wilson spoke of didn’t hit the mark until I started working in community journalism. As regular Mountaineer readers will recognize, the heart of a small-town newspaper is the stories that champion the numerous worthwhile causes that surround us.

Whether it is families who lost their home in a tragic fire, individuals facing an expensive illness or simply that there are those among us who never have enough to eat, the community newspapers I’ve worked at have made others aware of the situation.

Knowledge about the plight of others in our midst has made it difficult to give priority to personal “extras” when there are so many who don’t have the essentials.

Our own sons still remember their father’s words at Christmas when they presented their Christmas wish list. He’d nod and say, “You’ll get everything you need and some of what you want.”

For youngsters, the line between “need” and “want” is sometimes blurred, but it is one that became clearer through the years for our children. Now they never want anything at Christmas or on their birthday because, you guessed it, they say they don’t need anything.

The “enough” point is one that is unique to each of us and is a step Wilson encouraged his congregation to think about. “Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses,” he said. “Let them win.” I say “hallelujah” to that.

Rich and I often sit on our front porch and talk about our simple needs, our simple life and how thankful we are for all we have.

We do what we can for those who don’t have enough, and privately feel sorry for those who can only be satisfied with buying or consuming  more and more.