Paper Money


Recently in light of all the bad economic news, I’ve started using a one-dollar bill as a bookmark. It’s just my way of reminding myself about what’s really important. And I don’t mean money.

In all honesty, the last few years have been a struggle for our family financially. While we didn’t suffer the direct effects of the housing bubble, we, like many of you, have had to tighten our belts, learn the difference between want and need, and pray a lot more. And at times, it has seemed like no matter how hard we work, we can’t get ahead.

For us at least, The American Dream simply isn’t.

But luckily, we have other dreams. Ones that rely less on picket fences and picket lines and more on picking our joys and learning to live in contentment and generosity. Ones that realize that even if we’re never in the 1%, we’re already among the wealthiest people on this planet simply by virtue of being born where we were. And ones that believe that the only things of true value are the people around us.

Yet for all my starry-eyed idealism, I still struggle. I struggle as I watch friends and family move on, I struggle with having to say “no” to my children, and I struggle with the day-to-day weight of being forced to choose between good things. And apparently I struggle more than I’d realized.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter made a list of the things she thought we needed to pray for as a family. And four out of the five were directly related to employment or income. (The fifth was about her daddy’s ability to sing, and the least said about that, the best.) As I read her list, my heart dropped and I realized that whether I’d meant to or not, somehow I had taught her that the most significant thing in life is money.

For those of us going through hard times, it’s easy to start thinking this way—maybe even easier than for those who are economically stable. Because when you lack money, it suddenly becomes your greatest need, and the next promotion, the next big windfall, the next extreme couponing experience will be your savior. When you’re poor, it’s easy to start thinking that the god of frugality will rescue you from your guilt, embarrassment, and helplessness.

And you forget, that all the money in the world is pointless if you loose your own soul in the process.

Trust me, I do understand how this world works, and I’m not demonizing frugality or poverty or even wealth for that matter. Money is essential to life and there are plenty of desperate people out there who need more of it. I’m just learning to not let my soul be consumed by it. I’m learning to pray that God will simply give me what I need—no more and no less. I’m also learning to be thankful that I have a roof over my head, food on my table, children that love me, and a husband who is my best friend. I’m learning that I’m rich already.

So rich in fact, that I can use money for bookmarks.