For most of my adult life, I have been relatively poor. I use the word “relatively” advisedly, because much of the poverty came from our choices that (1) I should be a stay at home mom and (2) we should invite five lovely daughters into our family, which effectively guaranteed that we could not afford to have me working outside the home, compounded by (3) the inability of the children’s father to keep a job.
I have learned many things from poverty. One lesson was to how to make a penny do the work of a nickel. Another was how to use my talents to bring extra income into the family. I learned how sweet it can be to sacrifice on behalf of one’s children, if one does not allow resentment to creep in.
I learned some false lessons as well, and I am still struggling with those, the worst perhaps being a sense of entitlement: this is mine, I worked hard for it, and I will share it or not, as I choose. When we lived in Fredericksburg, I knew a couple who had lived through the Great Depression. He was perhaps the most tight-fisted man I have ever met; she was perhaps the most generous, living by the maxim that “if you continually give, you will continually have”. The older I get, the better I understand his attitude. It is based in fear. And the more I want to emulate hers. It is based in love and faith and trust.
My patriarchal blessing states that I will have “enough and to spare”. There have been times when I thought that the Lord’s idea of “to spare” was considerably different from my own. And there have been times of some stability. One of the themes of my marriage was that he wanted to be rich. And I was afraid to be wealthy, afraid that if I were, I would entirely turn my back on the Lord and His children, and in the end be found wanting. It has since occurred to me that if I want to be a righteous steward if and when I am wealthy, it is absolutely necessary to practice that now, when I am still finding my feet financially.
When I added up how much money I had spent at the drive-through last month, it was appalling. It was dribbled away in $2 and $3 increments, a couple of tacos here, a mango smoothie there. So obviously it was “spare” money that I did not miss. When I got my check on the 31st, I made myself put that much into savings, and I divided an equal amount between two favorite charities, where it could do some real good. I have done better this month, both in terms of financial priorities and general health. I have not done so well with my time, but I am learning.
I went to the temple a week ago Saturday and was reminded of the covenants we make. One of my children who is not active in the church, scrimped for three months to save for my birthday gift. I have a pretty fair idea of how little she makes and what proportion of her take-home this gift represents, and how many hours she worked in order to be so generous. I am deeply moved. I think it must be a little like how Father feels when we hand over our tithing when we don’t know how or when all the bills are going to get paid.
I think it is not accidental that I should receive a windfall on the same day that I learned of a friend who has a great and pressing need. When I first opened the envelope, my first thought was, “Oh, I can put this on my layaway.” And a few hours later, it was, “Oh. Now I think I know why the check came.”
It may turn out that my friend finds a ram in the thicket, without my pitching in. But I believe that it is imperative for me to remember my covenants and to be prepared to hand it over cheerfully and without regret or covetousness. And to remember that it is really not “my stuff”.
I wrote the above before church a week ago yesterday, while preparing a spiritual thought to share in ward council. As it turns out, there was no need for me to contribute to the solution of my friend’s financial problem. But I think it was absolutely necessary for me to ponder how I can do a better job of sharing my time, my talents, and yes, sometimes my money to ease the way and bless the lives of those around me. Because none of this is really mine; it is a stewardship, and part of the test of mortality is to help me discover what is really important to me. And the way I will know it and show it, is by how and where and with whom I spend my time, my energy, my talents, my devotion.
I worked a little on Firstborn’s sock after coming home from church and taking a short nap. I have done two and a half pattern repeats on the leg, with two and a half to go before I do the cuff and the binding-off. I think about how far she and I have come, together. She is the child of my youth and abysmal ignorance. She had the mom with two massive breast infections. She had the mom with post-partum depression. She had the mom who came down with hepatitis when she [Firstborn] was not quite one; she endured six weeks of near isolation when I had to literally bump up and downstairs tush-first to take her her bottle and change her diaper, because I did not have the strength to walk up and downstairs, or hold her and play with her.
It is a miracle that she has turned out so well, a real testament to the strength of her spirit and the grace of Heaven. She is currently experiencing some health challenges; nothing life-threatening, thank goodness, but trying, both for her and for her family. And she is battling the current dragon with intelligence and fiery humor, as near as I can tell.
I may not like the yarn I’m working with, but I love the sock pattern, and I love her. When these socks are done, Fourthborn will be the only one of the girls without some tangible, knitted love. This is the year that gets fixed. And then maybe I can figure out how to knit the AutoZone gift card that 1BDH says he wants...
A postscript: I thought I was finished with this post, but that was before my final meeting of the day. The stake operates a ham radio network as part of our emergency preparedness. Stake leadership requested at least one person from each ward’s Relief Society presidency to check in. So I drove to the home of one of the ward members and got the pleasure of hearing voices of friends old and new. And learning a thing or three. I think someday, maybe when I am retired [if I ever retire] or get to take off the RS President hat, I might like to get an operator’s license.
It was interesting, and I got to know four of my ward members a little better. OK, I’m done.
- Four years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!