Growing up, we didn’t have much money and I remember begging my dad to buy me expensive name brand clothes and sneakers because I thought that they would make me happy, cool and fit in with the kids at school. He refused to spend extra money for a logo when the off-brand versions served the same purpose. Money was tight. He knew the more expensive brands would only make us happy in the short-run. Plus, he could care less about what kids at school thought about my sister and I. He was only concerned that the money stretched long enough to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. My dad was teaching us a valuable lesson – that I would forget, yes, I said would forget, up until many years later.
“Doing the best with the little that I got”, was my grandfather’s favorite response to anyone asking him how he was doing. It took reflecting on my grandfather’s life and this quote, to realize that he and my dad were teaching me the same valuable lesson.
Let me explain…
Traveling around the world, I encountered impoverished areas where the living conditions weren’t the best, a quality education wasn’t guaranteed and food was scarce. Basic necessities not met. However, what I gathered from my interactions with families and individuals from my travels was that they had a positive outlook on life. Of course, they strived for better and wanted better conditions. But they didn’t let their lack thereof dictate their attitude. They were grateful for what they had and often found comfort that they were in good health, among loved ones and were able to wake up that morning with an opportunity to potentially change their circumstance.
“Doing the best with the little that I got”. My grandfather began using this quote during a time in his life when his health wasn’t the best. In just a few words, he was telling us that he was making the best of his situation. Of course, he wanted to feel better physically, however, it was out of his control. But he was happy to be home spending quality time with his family. Sometimes you have to look at your situation as a glass half full instead of half empty.
These experiences allowed me to reflect on my own upbringing. No, I didn’t have to worry about not having a place to sleep at night. I didn’t have to worry about the lack of clothes. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I could afford to pay for school; it was free. I didn’t have to worry about where my next meal was coming from. It was natural for me to want better quality everything, however my dad wanted my sister and I to be grateful that our necessities were met. He wanted us to know that we were doing the best with the little that we had. He wanted us to know that the things we had and didn’t have shouldn’t define our happiness or worth. Only we could do that.
Educators, parents and students – reflect on seven things that you are grateful for in your life that make you happy. Write them down and share them with one another. This should be an open dialogue.
Stay Educated. Stay Empowered. Stay WellTraveled.