Sunday, July 15, 2012
Reminisce: Making a Lot, Out of a Little
Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. We always had enough to keep us from worrying about being out on the streets, so I always felt secure in that sense. But, from an early age, my parents repeatedly taught my sisters and I the value of making a lot out of a little.
My mother stayed at home and raised us, and my dad worked. He was an educator and, starting out, he didn't make a ton of money. We lived in a blue townhouse that one of the members of our family's church rented out. He rented one half to my parents, and one half to missionaries when they came back to the states, for rest and support raising.
It was always really fun to meet people who had gone to Turkey, Tajikistan or other various cultures and to hear their stories about living with peoples of other nations. Many of the missionary families had very little money, so all their clothes were hand-me-downs from other church folk, and when they left, they took only what they could carry for the most part. So the rest of the clothes were given to us.
That was how my sisters and I updated our wardrobes. When we didn't get clothes from missionary families who didn't need them anymore, my parents would "thrift." They'd go to Goodwill or Salvation Army (when they had time), and they'd buy what they could afford.
When we got those clothes, we made them last. I guess this is why I've never been too concerned with having lots of different clothes, or the newest, latest fashions.
If it works, why by three more pairs?
The same was true of our toys. With the exception of Christmas, and occasional birthdays, we'd often make do with used toys (often from the same missionary families who were leaving the country). I never had a ton of toys growing up, but Legos were my favorite. I never went into toy stores. Our parents didn't want us to get in the habit of fixating on wanting things that we couldn't afford.
It was in those years that I began to mold into a person who makes a lot out of a little.
I learned that there's no shame in buying things used, or wearing hand-me-downs, or not having the newest name brand item.
I learned that you can always stretch something a bit further.
Americans are actually incredibly wasteful, when you stop to think about it. We barely use things to their full potential. I see this more and more as I get older.
The other thing I learned, and this will tie into the first statement I made, was to use my imagination. Since our parents didn't buy us a ton of toys, more often than not my siblings and I would be kicked out of the house to play outside. We had to create our fun.
We raked leaf piles, and jumped in them.
We biked to the park and ran around for hours.
I found sticks in the wooded area of our yard and turned them into guns, with which I drove away invading hordes that were trying to overrun our property line.
We played hide and seek.
We built forts out of blankets, and chairs.
We made up stories.
Played card games.
Ran through sprinklers.
We hung out at the library
We read books (Crazy idea, that)
Went to nature centers, and festivals....
There are so many fun things to do, that don't cost a dime. We learned that growing up. We also learned that fun wasn't contingent on a plastic game box, and a flatscreen T.V.
Boxes were the shit. We could do so much with boxes. They could be a hiding place, a makeshift base, a lab, a house...you name it, we imagined it.
My siblings and I spent a ton of time together growing up. We made up games, and we played hard. It was a rare day in the Carter household that we'd be inside in front of the T.V. I think that's why we are so tight even now, with different lives, and different schedules...
I feel that those days enriched my life exponentially. This lesson actually plays off the first value that I wrote about: Strong work ethic.
Having little when you're young, teaches you the things that matter. It helps you to be independent of the need to accumulate. It teaches you that the things you do decide to work are to be taken care of.
Growing up with little, you appreciate the things you have more fully.
At least, that's what it's done for me.