“Most of us” know this to be true about all the cliché things like bigger homes, more expensive cars, luxury jewelry, and so on.
But what’s harder to define is that grey area in the middle … the place between having just enough for both now and the future, but not compromising our other priorities in life.
This is a difficult line to walk. In general, a lot of us believe that striving to work harder and earn more is a good thing. Most of the time it is … so long as we are not missing the mark completely.
Want to know what I’m talking about? Hop in the car and go visit the local nursing home. After that, everything will make sense.
The Irony of the Nursing Home
Recently my wife’s grandparents were both moved to a nursing home after having entered a new stage of Alzheimer’s disease. We decided to go and visit with them on Christmas Eve.
A nursing home is an interesting concept. It’s full of people who have spent their entire lives being independent, raising families, taking care of spouses, fighting in wars, building careers full of great accomplishments, etc.
But now they are almost like children. They eat, sleep, and play when the nurses tell them to. They are under constant watch and supervision. They are all slowly becoming more and more dependent on this facility to take care of them.
It’s a great equalizer. In a nursing home, I’m old. You’re old. We’re all old. We all are in wheelchairs and need help doing some of the most basic of human functions.
All those illusions and the superficial sense of security that we thought money would bring us suddenly falls away. If you use money or your position as a shield to not talk to someone or be kind to another human being, in the nursing home you’ll soon find yourself naked and exposed.
Money may pay the bills. You may get a slightly nicer nursing home than other people. But that’s about it. Money is not going to pull up and visit you in your room. Money is not going to bring you flowers or drawings from your grandkids. “People” will do those things.
Who Will Visit You?
As we pulled up to the nursing home in our vehicle, there was another older woman in one of the windows staring off into the distance outside. I’d like to think that she was expecting someone to visit her today.
As we mature in this life, you realize that the greatest investment we could have ever made was that of human capital. Those we loved, those we touched, those we made a difference to. Those people who will come to visit us when we’re old and in a nursing home.
Though money can certainly improve our lives in many respects, it’s difficult to remember that’s it’s not an absolutely necessary requirement when it comes to making your impression on others. All the times you gave someone attention, helped them when they were in need, made them laugh, or just plain interacted. THOSE are the kind of things people will remember. Not the number you wrote in your checkbook.
Planting Your Seeds Now
As young Moms and Dads trying to wade our way through this labyrinth of parenting and life, I think we sometimes tend to lose sight of ultimate goal. We get so wrapped up in thinking that earning or simply having more money is going to solve all of these problems.
But it doesn’t. And it never will.
Being someone who has made a difference is not something that can be purchased. It’s something you have to strive for on your own. It’s an importance that you have to realize for yourself, and work for over time.
Just like saving and investing can pay off big over time, so too does planting these small seeds in “human capital”. A smile you gave. A friendly conversation. The time you lent a hand. All of these small actions have the potential to grow and bear fruit that you might need one day.
As the New Year approaches and we make the typical resolutions to “work out more” or make more money, ask yourself:
- What am I really doing to invest in others?
- How am I laying the foundation to leave my mark?
- When I’m old, in the nursing home, and staring out the window for someone to come and visit me, is anyone coming?
Absolutely! But only if you make that a certainty. Only if you work on it now.
Happy New Year!
Featured image courtesy of Flickr | zeitfaenger.at