Sunday, July 17, 2011

When Daddy Works Over 40 Hours

We cut short our shopping trip. Someone has to pay for these overpriced groceries and that call just came.

Daddy and daughter churn hands and walk across the July-baked parking lot to pick a cold treat off the Orange Leaf tree while I check out those overpriced groceries.

We head home. Over the cup's frosty edge of icy sweetness our nine-year-old questions the shift that the economy has played in her small world. "Daddy, why can't you own a restaurant?"

"A restaurant? Why?"

"So you won't get called out to work all the time."

The chid has already forgotten the callout the week before that went unanswered so we could set-up lawn chairs on the beach. The phone call is already forgotten. Not the July night, not the sky, not the sand, not the golden fireworks over the lake. Certainly not the memory. Just the phone call ignored in her daddy's pocket.

I don't remind her that we did own a restaurant once upon a lifetime before she was born and how much of our life it sucked, gnawed, and drained.

I decide to be practical and focus on the here and now. "Honey, Daddy works so we can buy our groceries and..." (because children don't concern themselves with practicals) "...treats from Orange Leaf and all those fun things you got to do today."

I stop short. Even as I say it I realize how my words can program my child to choose things and enjoyment over people and relationships. No one needs to recite an open litany to their child of how hard her daddy works for her care, well-being, and happiness. The child notices those things in the late evening callouts her daddy accepts without complaining. The click of the closet door, the zip of the uniform or briefcase, and the closing of the door behind him speaks louder than a mother's voice. There is safety in those sounds. Knowledge that one small soul is being diligently cared for in the sound of those footsteps that muffle down the hallway. Knowledge learned outside the classroom.

So what builds a bridge from that shore to the other? What builds the relationship? Ironically, it's the same care, concern for the well-being of that child, and desire to see happiness on our child's face which builds that bridge. No rehearsal necessary. It's the steady, everyday sacrifice that nurtures that relationship. The handheld walk across a blacktopped parking lot on a July evening is part of building that relationship.

No matter how brief the walk, the walk is what the child remembers.

These things are the pegs that build it solid and stout. Cups of yogurt are the buds planted along the bridge that beautify it. Not necessary but for small minds it's like finding a penny in the parking lot. 

Pennies from heaven have a hidden worth.

People can quote an eloquent life when money is a present commodity on the grocery list.

Poverty can be holy; it can also be ugly.

A child needs the assurance on bread on the table, a warm bed, and a safe roof where raindrops drum down as surely as she needs her daddy's hand in her own.

But when the grocery list runs dry? When the bridge cracks and is in need of repair? I've seen enough relationships suffer and weep because there was not enough basic for the basic. Certainly never enough for carefree walks, minute giggles, and yogurt smiles.

Poverty can be holy. The Bible tells us. Jesus showed us.

Poverty can also be ugly and lifeless.

So when is too much too much? And when is not enough just not enough?

It's in our handling and mentality of money.

An excellent book I've read on this subject is Gregory S. Jeffrey's Why Enough is Never Enough. A very easy read. I read it in one night and passed it to my husband.

Another book on understanding a simple life and God's will for this life is Happy Are You Poor : The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom by Thomas Dubay.

These books will show you how an overtly fear of finances and worry over money can prove to be as unhealthy and detrimental as the worship of money. Anxiety over money is as sinful an idolatry as greed over money.

Our world would do well in realizing there is a difference between Poverty vs. Simplicity

Perhaps we will be forced to learn it in the near future. Perhaps some have already had to learn it. The outcome will depend on our mindset; whether we embrace our homes (what and who we have in them) or whether we tear our bridges down like young children do in a rage when they don't get what they want.

"...the difference can be pointed in the way that living simply is living well, even when it is done within the scope of the same budget which draws another family into the pit of poverty." ~ Domestic Felicity 


  1. Very encouraging! My husband works well over 40 hours each week and although we are grateful for the financial security, I catch myself doubting the trade off sometimes.

  2. Thank you for sharing, just to know other families struggles with this - and positively. My husband will soon be 65 and has been required to work as many hours a week lately. I think when some people think of extra hours, they sometimes think it's about greed and overtime pay, but in salaried positions, at least, it's often about keeping the job. And when you're not ready to retire, you need to keep the job because yes, living with money works a lot better than living without. I've even found my husband working so many hours to be a reason for me not to get another job (even though his extra hours don't mean additional pay), so that I can have the energy to keep up with the teen, and so I can be there for my husband in as many ways as possible.


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