Monday Musings…Dialogue with the Door continued…What Do You Value?
Words are all around us. They are the muse of billboards, the art of etchings in tree bark or paint strokes on overpasses; they are intricately connected to the tone we classically associate with on our cell phones. Words, in essence, are magnetic – we are either attracted to or repelled by their sight and sound. They convey more than the curvature of the letters that form their outline or the semantics we hear. Words reveal the inner workings of one’s head space.
And so I had the privilege of reading many words, over several weeks, on my office door. What began as a curiosity on my part, quickly became a personal fascination. I waited wondering if anyone would respond to my weekly questions. Well… They came. They stopped. They wrote! And wrote!! There were no rules, no signatures, just 3 sharpies attached to some elastics hanging wistfully from the magnet that attracted the paper to the door.
For my second question, I decided to ask a familiar question but the timing was important. It was winter, after Christmas, bills need to be paid, pressure was building as the semester got under way. I had been reflecting on my project with the high school students and their stressors. Their number one concern about leaving high school and becoming an adult was finances: How am I going to manage money? How do I budget? Can I live without going into serious debt? How can I afford rent and tuition and still eat?
So, I asked: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?
Here are the responses:
I loved it! People got a chance to write about their dreams of what a future could be if this stress was gone. Many wrote about continuing their education (which I have to agree is an awesome choice); others wrote about freedom just to be; some wrote about acquiring possessions that would make them comfortable; others wrote about enjoying hobbies without constraints such as fishing or travel; and others spoke of giving back to others. It was wonderful to read the free associations of the people who passed the door.
But then I got to thinking – was money the answer for these people to achieve their goals? Or has society infiltrated our head space to convince us that none of this is possible if you don’t have money?
When I was 13, I travelled by myself to a foreign country, which, at the time, was considered an underdeveloped nation. With a small fortune in my hand I travelled through the island feeling free. I learned a few basic words, ate fish that someone else caught for me, and stayed in some nice places – all things that money could afford me. But the best education came from learning how to survive when I ran out of money. My vocabulary expanded. I made friends with the locals who taught me how to harvest coffee beans. I slept in peace and tranquility under a palm tree on many a starry night – the best seat in the house for a galactic experience. I delighted in the daily dish of beans and rice which I still crave to this day. I learned how to catch my own fish in the ocean. But the greatest education and biggest reward was feeling accepted by strangers whose race, age, gender, and income meant nothing. We were a community, giving to each other. And it cost us nothing but the sweat of our brows, the work of our hands, and the words, yes words, of encouragement that we gave each other as we sat and sang around the fire at the end of the day. And no one complained about money, though by North American standards everyone was poor.
So money is just an object and not the sole means to a better future. It’s what’s in your head space that determines your true value, contentment, and purpose.