My wife RaNae and I were both raised in what I would call mild poverty. She was the daughter of a farmer with eight children and I was the son of an L.A. police officer with seven children. After we married, we quickly realized it could get even worse. With college, then the military, then four more years of Chiropractic School, and all this interspersed with the births of our five children, things were pretty bleak.
We finally arrived in Las Vegas after being married for ten years; it was our 16th move. We borrowed some money from the bank and set up a small private practice. I wasn’t in the phonebook, we couldn’t afford to advertize, and my wife said my personality wasn’t all that great, so things were even bleaker for a while. Well, we slowly overcame obstacles, the practice grew, and we began to prosper.
During our years of struggle we each had established our own personal goals. My wife’s, true to form, was just to have a house, with or without a picket fence, that we could call our own and raise our family in. We have been blessed with that. My goal, I guess also true to form, was to get a car. Not just any car, but THE car. The kind of automobile that would announce to people I HAVE ARRIVED! Well, maybe even more than that, the kind that would put everyone else in the dirt, make them more than envious.
Well, I got it, a Mercedes super-duper model. It was a low rider with special wheels and tires and spoilers front and back. It looked like it was doing 100 mph when it was parked. I immediately noticed something; when I got in it, I felt different, even superior. I got personalized plates to help represent who I was. I cared for it like I had never cared for anything before. I became obnoxious and parked away from everyone else, diagonal across two spaces, so nothing could touch it. It started to control my life.
One day I went home for lunch and the kids’ bikes were in the way so I could only park half-way in the garage. While I was eating a sandwich, I could hear a strange banging sound coming from the garage, but didn’t think much of it at first. After it continued for a while, I decided to investigate. I’m sure you can imagine my shock when I opened the door and saw my sweet little daughter with the remote in hand repeatedly bringing the heavy wooden garage door down on the hood of my treasure. She was actually trying to cut it in half.
I ran across the garage and caught myself just seconds from being guilty of some major child abuse. An interesting thing happened then—I found myself hugging her, and laughing. It was as if she had released me from prison. I was almost grateful. I finally recognized that the car I had so cherished was just a piece of metal and she was my precious daughter. I have never looked at a possession the same way again. It has something to do with real worth.
Ultimately, each of us has to decide what is really important, what has real lasting worth. I have discovered for myself that stuff rusts, rots, and turns to dust. Any joy these bring is very fleeting. What truly provides lasting happiness are things like health, relationships, trust, faith, and security. In other words, it’s not what you have, but what you are that matters most.
In the end, I am convinced that it will not be the stuff we have accumulated that will be most meaningful. I doubt that on our death bed that we’ll wish we’d spent more time at the office or care what kind of clothes, jewelry, or cars we had. I do believe that our relationships and character and will be front and center as we lie there going over the best of our lives. Let us not leave that which matters most at the mercy of that which matters least.
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