Both of my parents were raised during The Great Depression.
My dad, the youngest of nine children, lost his mother when he was barely 5 years old. Most of his young life was spent traveling with his father from Oklahoma to California working in fields to survive. If you Google “Dust Bowl Migration,” you'll get a small hint of what it was like.
Dad tells stories of staying in the “government camp,” spending nights at the YMCA (not the beautiful workout facilities we have now) and riding in an over-crowded car with grown siblings in the desert heat. The best gift at Christmas was an orange and some walnuts.
It fascinates me when he speaks of his young life. As I sat thinking about it, I realized he has never complained about the way he grew up. The poverty, the hard work and lack of a decent elementary education isn't what you'll hear when he's reminiscing. Stories of laughter, hope and discovery told over and over.
The parents to my generation lived through difficult times. They came out wanting to give their children what they didn't have. The definition varied, but the suggestion was that a better life was tied to the amount of money you had. My dad never did that and I'm starting to see why.
Sitting at home on a lazy Sunday, I let out a contented sigh, as I confessed to my husband, “I really do feel as if we live a charmed life.”
He chuckled, knowing the trials of life we have faced together. Those things that have shaped us have not defined us as much as they have taught us.
Shortly after surviving a carjacking with my daughter still in the van, we looked at life differently. We began to see the ordinary as precious. We know that to some, just having a hand to hold is rare. Walking through this life next to someone, even someone you don’t always agree with, makes the burdens seem a little lighter.
My dad did want us to have a better life, so he modeled it. He worked hard, to be sure, but as he saw how fast we were growing up, he scaled back on the work. He retired early, bought a blueberry farm in Northern California and worked it side-by-side with my mom for the next decade. When Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, he sold the farm and spent the rest of her days holding her hand.
The lesson to me is this: Life isn't about having more. It's about doing more with what we already have.
I'm not talking about things. I'm talking about that friend who needs a call, that single mom who needs a kind word or our children who would rather read us a book than have a new anything. Our spouse who needs us to hear or our parents who need us to just listen.
In short, we need community. We need face to face and hand to hand.
Things are nice, but what we really need is each other. Because in the end, no matter how much money we have or don't have, we need to have each other.
The lesson to me is this: Life isn\'t about having more. It\'s about doing more with what we already have.