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The Haves and the Have-Nots

The love of money is the root of all evil; the lack of money is the root of all evil. – Robert Kiyosaki

If a person gets his attitude towards money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life. – Billy Graham

The last six weeks have been a blur of sun and travel; biking, flying, and driving; food, games, movies, and books.

Yes, you know me. There was a lot of books.

I left with four Kindle reads and two hardcovers, but when I arrived at our home-away-from-home, I also wandered to their lobby’s lending library. Always curious to see what others choose to buy then share with others, my eyes landed on a black-lettered green paperback: Moneyball.

From the first pages, Michael Lewis swept me back to adolescence, where September meant less about going back to school and more about the World Series. With each chapter, I returned to the smell of my Grannie’s kitchen and taste of my mom’s apple pie.  I went back to the day I paced the front bedroom of my grandparents’ cozy old house, unable to watch as Dave Winfield tried to defy the curse of a 2-2-2 count.

He did.

Everyone screamed – except for Grandpa. He rocked in his chair, radio headphones over his ears, newspaper in hand, feet tucked underneath him in the position only former-baseball catchers can do.

Good show, dere, he said. Canada’s first World Series.

That summer I begged my parents for tickets to the Vancouver Canadians minor league team just so I could see former-championship-Blue-Jay-and-newly-minor-league-confined Kelly Gruber play third base.

Contrary to popular belief, my love of sports extends far beyond hockey.

It probably helps my love of Moneyball that I knew many of the players Michael Lewis recounted in the early years of Billy Beane’s life. I’d watched the Blue Jays play against David Justice and Lenny Dykstra. I’d owned Darryl Strawberry’s rookie card.

But Lewis’s writing extends beyond the love of sport; he exposes one of humanity’s greatest threats – the love of money.

At the end of the movie, Brad Pitt’s character Billy looks at his statistics-championing assistant and says, I made one decision in my life based on money and I promised myself I’d never do it again.

Last week we spent five days in the Pacific Northwest.  Four of those days we explored, rested, and breathed in a gorgeous, peaceful mountain resort. We visited, ate, and biked with family and friends. Our kids played with their cousin. We reconnected with other homeschooling friends whose encouragement and thoughts have always brought such insight to our own.

Yet I came home feeling like I spent most of the weekend talking about money.

Why?

Why?

This year brought big changes to our house – most of them emotional, inter-personal, or even physical, but each one involved money. With the ebbs and flows of our daily and monthly circumstances, our ideas about money shifted, flopped, and ran into walls. I found myself angry, frustrated, disappointed, even consumed with all the things we could or would do if we only had more money.

I look at those words in print on a top-of-the-line computer screen in the midst of a beautiful, full, blessed home, and I feel shame.

Do we always look to what we don’t have?

My Grannie used to say, some people have more money than brains, and I grew up thinking that it was only people who had a lot of money that had trouble with it.  If you don’t have a lot of something, it can’t be a problem for you, right?

Wrong.

There is an insidious evil in the lack of money. Cost of living – and societal expectations – can force us to think far too much about budgets. Recessions push many of us to talk about how ‘tight’ things are. And if I’m really honest with myself, too many of my decisions – and too much of my time – is consumed by the thought, can I afford that? not, am I supposed to do that?

I recently told David that if I could wish anything for the whole world, it would be that everyone would have enough, that we would buy what we needed without greed or want, that we would get what we had to have without desperation or despotism.

Yeah, he said. But we can’t do that.

I know, I agreed.

It would take infinite wisdom to make decisions like that – wisdom you and I don’t have.

As it is, the gap between the poor and the rich seems to widen every year. Distinction between the haves and the have-nots seems to careen out of control. 

In fact, some would say, not only is the gap between the poor and rich widening, but the proportion of rich to poor is shifting. Every year, there are less haves and more have-nots.

But perhaps that’s not referring to just our salaries.

This spring I picked up a book at my hairdresser’s that the previous client had left behind: A Thousand Gifts. If you’ve not read it, I do challenge you to spend some time wrestling with what Ann Voskamp has to say in it. It’s easy to listen to someone talk about gratefulness but much harder to practice it. Voskamp inspires us to do that in the everyday, seemingly insignificant, events. She urges all of us, no matter what our practical considerations, to choose to be haves, not have-nots.

We eat dinner on an antique table I inherited from my paternal grandmother.

I remember being afraid of this table as a child. It sat in the darkest corner of Grandma’s living room, unblemished and unused.

She and my Grandpa believed, as they told my dad nearly every day, the only thing that matters is a buck, and don’t you forget it.

Perhaps they valued possessions because they lived through the Great Depression. Perhaps their ethos was formed by Grandpa’s decades as a banker. Perhaps Grandma just really loved nice things – fine china and decorative dolls.

But when my other Grannie died – the baseball-loving, hockey-watching, Scottish-dancing, craft-making fireball of a sweet little old lady who picked me up from school, taught me to sing, cook, and knit  – all I inherited was her beloved choir book and a basket of unfinished knitting projects.

Yet when I open that choir book, I can hear her voice; when I pick up those needles, I remember her thick Gaelic accent, promising there’s nothin’ better than knittin’ for the nerves, dearie.

One set of grandparents  – the haves – gave me every advantage they could. The other – the have-nots – taught me how to live.

Or was it the other way around?

Halfway through The Hunger Games, Katniss says to Rue, it is to the Careers’ disadvantage that they don’t know how to be hungry.

Sometimes, the things we have are a disadvantage.

Sometimes, having turns us into have-nots.

Let’s be honest: getting the things we want doesn’t make us feel more like haves. It only makes us want more. And the more we want, the more we think of ourselves as have-nots.

We don’t need to have stuff in order to be the haves.

We just need to look a little less at what we wish we had, and more at what we’ve been given.

Or, as Adlai Stevenson said of Eleanor Roosevelt after she died:

She would rather light candles than curse the darkness.

That sounds pretty good to me.

Anyone got any matches?

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