Stormy seas demand investment and balance

My little family, the part of it still here and not traveling all over Europe, went to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner Saturday night. Not a regular dining spot for us, but the one selected this evening. My 16 year old daughter and I approached the door, and just to the right was a table ably “manned” by several girl scouts.

“Wanna buy some cookies?” one asked, smiling.

“No. We’ve already gotten some,” I replied and reached for the restaurant door.

But scout girl was ready, “You could donate some for the troops,” she said, voice pleading and head tipping to one side.

I stammered, and hemmed, and my daughter shoved me toward the door. “Uh, not this time,” I may have eeked out.

“Enjoy your steak,” she called after me.

Oooohh. Ouch. What a dig, I thought. And I said so to my daughter. She assured me this “little” girl meant nothing by the remark. I wasn’t so sure. To me it meant, ‘Oh, you’re gonna spend your money on a big steak but you don’t have a few dollars for the troops?’ I found it both unkind and indicting.

Happily the girl scouts had gone home when we exited the restaurant. I looked.

But this raised some uncomfortable questions for me.

  • Should I be donating to the troops? Did they really need cookies?
  • Did I need to give?
  • Did I feel compelled to since I had been asked?
  • Why wasn’t I ready with a response?
  • Was the girl right, was I so tight-fisted? 
  • Did she really mean to accuse me by her question or was I just making this up?
  • The kicker: what is my relationship with my dollars, donations, giving, resources?

Because obviously I had some baggage stowed around this issue. Amazing how a 10 year old with a green vest can call this out in me. Guilt around “not giving” when I “should.” Where does this “should” come from, and why have I given it so much power over me that I can’t even say “yes” or “no” to a 10 year old?

True, I grew up in a household where money was “not discussed.” Children were not to know how much Dad made or how much our house cost. We had what we needed and we got, within reason, what we asked for. I don’t ever remember feeling like I had to “go without.” But I never developed a relationship with money. It was something my parents managed for me.

Now that I’m an adult (by most accounts, pardon the pun) money is something I have to deal with. Asking for payment, paying the bills, negotiating the cost. How much are things worth? How much am I worth?

I am fortunate to be married to someone who negotiates these things beautifully. He handles the bills, investing, savings plans and kids education funds. His income is more than sufficient for our needs. Ironically, he grew up in a family where he was challenged to account for his spending. So much so that he even threatened to cut any ties to parental support at one point. In the matter of finances, he is free of dis-health because he was made to negotiate the boundaries.

I was not and don’t experience that freedom. I don’t think I’m alone in this, judging from the financial woes of so many in today’s America. It seems that many, even those well-resourced, settle at the extremes: either “don’t think about it – spend now and pay later” or “think about it constantly  – and hold tight to every penny.” Oblivious or anxious, neither is healthy. We need to attend in a responsible way.

For me it means navigating mid-stream, making course corrections according to the wind and the waves. To say yes, go right, and when it gets choppy, say no, go left, adjusting the sails in the new course. Funny, I’m quite a good swimmer, but sailing never has been my thing. I think God knew this when he put in my mind to marry a man who had a sound footing in finances.

So it’s taken me until middle age to really become the skipper and launch the Fit2Finish (my fitness business start up in 2001, incorporated in 2005 and now writing my way into 2103) skiff into the world of “high finance.” Well, it seems high finance to me when I look at the wind and the waves. I just keep hearing,”Don’t get out of the boat!” I don’t think my swimming will save me and walking on water is not an option.

“Trust me; I’m making you a better sailor.” That’s what the wind whispers. So I set sail on a sea of resources, for which I give God thanks and praise. He has entrusted them to me – a great ballast of responsibility. Let me not be the one who buries them and returns what only what was given. Let me be the one who doubles them and returns them with interest.

No telling how the One who invested in me might magnify the return on that investment. That’s probably good. Don’t put me in charge of the investing, just the day to day spending. Maybe start me with a canoe and some paddles. Bi-lateral effort is my specialty.

Casting off was the tricky part, and there are sure to be waves. But tied to the shore is no place for a sailor like me.


About wlebolt

Life comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.

Posted on March 14, 2013, in Body, In Action, Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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