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Days of Our Lives Episode Two: Finding Your Treasures
Words of My Father
“He doesn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.”
If that isn’t a great description of being poor, I don’t know what is. What my dad lacked in formal education he more than made up for with blunt street-wise common sense and a no-bullshit attitude.
The first time I heard my father say that particular pearl of wisdom, he was talking about a distant relative of ours who had just lost his home to the bank. I asked my dad why our relative just didn’t pay his bills…seemed simple enough to me. Dad told me that life is rarely that easy. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, he said, and money wasn’t something you could count on indefinitely.
That made no sense to me when I was ten. Money was money, right? You worked hard, you earned money, you paid your bills and everything worked out, or so I thought.
Oh, the hubris of youth!
My dad just smiled at me and told me it just ain’t that easy.
Now I know.
Both Ends of the Financial Spectrum
I’ve been homeless and I’ve made a six-figure income. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. I’ve had to scrounge for a week’s supply of mac-n-cheese and I’ve eaten at the finest restaurants. Off-the-rack clothes, bargain bin cast-offs and made-by-loving hand, one stitch at a time, my closet has looked dusty and empty one year and filled with the finest the next. I’ve slept in my car for weeks and owned fourteen homes. I have three college degrees, a fact that kept me warm on nights I ran my paper route along the mean streets, rubbing shoulders with other college graduates.
Life is rarely that easy and cannot be explained away with dime novel philosophy.
You live it. You deal with it. You move forward.
Or you give up and become a statistic.
And then there’s Bev. While I joke now about my year of tossing newspapers, she did it for thirteen years as a single mother, raised her four children lovingly, purchased her one and only home, scraped out a living while supplying ample portions of love and compassion for all she met.
No diplomas adorn her walls, but those walls are filled with framed photos of smiling kids and deliriously happy family memories.
For her the mantra is you live it, you love it and you always reach out a helping hand to those who need it.
And Then We Met
The perfect blending of philosophies? I won’t go that far, but it’s worked so far. We do, to borrow a heavily used phrase, complete each other.
And like my father, lessons have been learned and will be dispensed upon request.
One such lesson pertains to the treasures of life.
I was twenty-four, full of piss and vinegar, when I bought a Porsche. Oh sure, I loved the speed and the way it handled, hugging the road as the rpms screamed and I took it through its paces, but I also loved having others see me in it, a symbol that I was making it in the game of life, that I had arrived and I was a player. Look at me, world, I’m here, I’m climbing the ladder of success, ain’t I grand?
Today I drive a 1997 Ford Ranger pickup truck with a passenger door that will only open six inches.
Look at me, world, I’m here, I’m climbing the ladder of success, ain’t I grand?
The thing is, my wife and I love that old truck. In many ways it is a perfect reflection of who we are as people today. It’s seen some rough roads. It’s got some rust on the underbelly, and it doesn’t accelerate as well as it once did, but it still gets from Point A to Point B reliably. It’s not flashy by any means. It’s just a truck doing what trucks do.
Same as us.
Walk Through Our Home with Us
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk through the front door of our 1950’s rambler is there is nothing new in our home. The furniture is all secondhand. The floors need new coverings. There are small holes in the walls and a few stains on the ceilings from the kids’ science experiments gone bad. Tile needs replacing, the roof needs replacing and a little extra insulation sure wouldn’t hurt as winter approaches.
The piano, bought at a garage sale, needs tuning. Throw rugs hide stains and when they become threadbare they are replaced by the latest trendsetters at Goodwill.
I would be concerned that a good wind would flatten this house if it were not for the foundation.
The foundation is strong.
The frame is sound.
Just like the people who live within that framing.
Bev and I learned a few truths growing up.
Would you like to know what those truths are?
Truth Number One
Listen closely because I’m only going to say this once.
Wealth is not measured by the number of possessions you own.
I’ll match our wealth with any of you, and the degree of our wealth would become apparent to you as soon as you met us. We’ve got all the intangibles. We’ve got laughter. We’ve got compassion for others. We’ve got ready smiles that carry us through the tough times. And we’ve got love.
Our home, despite its outward appearance, sparkles because of its inhabitants.
Truth Number Two
There is a certain advantage those who have lost everything have over those who have never lost in a big way. As a mentor of mine once said, “Bill, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”
I see it among our friends. I see it online on social media. My car broke down and I’m having a shitty day. The bills are piling up and I hate life. My boss is a creep who doesn’t appreciate me, the power went out and the food spoiled, the cat ran away and the kids are driving me nuts. Life sucks and then you die.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.
The same mentor also told me, “Bill, you could make a typhoon out of a glass of water.” True words back in the day. Life was a crisis for me at that time. Every single day was a challenge. Every person and everything that happened were obstacles holding me back from my potential.
What a bunch of b.s.
I didn’t know real challenge until I found myself with no job, no money, no food and no shelter.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.
And my wife will tell you the same thing.
She’s lived hardship.
Today she lives love.
And the Final Truth
The word “treasure” comes from the Old French meaning something of great worth or value. It seems to me this leaves the definition up for interpretation depending on our value system. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, true? But it also points out the nebulous nature of treasure. Any treasure that has physical properties, like gold, possessions, or whatever, is transitory. In other words, it can be gained and it can be lost.
Conversely, any treasure that is based on internal values will always remain, as long as we are receptive to it and willing to allow it.
As long as my values are based upon love, compassion, empathy and friendship, any treasures I derive from those pursuits will always remain with me.
In other words, my wife and I are permanently rich and will always be so.
How about you?
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)