“…Bluebirds sing for nothing—and the shade comes free with a tree…” – Troy Jones & Shane Decker
I like money. I used to like working with it in my job. I liked paying bills and working out the best way to do it so that we’d have as much money as we had month—well, most of the time. Having more of it would be nice, I guess, but since we don’t really need more, that doesn’t really matter. I like what money can do, but not what it often does do.
Even though I like it, I don’t want it to become important. At least, I don’t want it to become more important than things that are free. When I wrote that, I thought it was sort of profound. I also thought some people reading it would just think it was goofy. And I’m good with that.
But this afternoon on Facebook, I saw pictures of some of our kids and grandkids on different beaches. The sky and the waters of Lake Michigan and the Atlantic Ocean were brilliant blue behind them. The sand was sparkling white. Another of the kids told me about a bicycle ride down the Virginia Creeper Trail. Seventeen miles almost all down-hill. I’m not sure I’ll ever make the ride, but it’s been fun thinking about it, visualizing our son and daughter-in-law riding it, remembering the conversation.
Oh, yes, conversation. Conversation with friends and family is free and priceless at the same time. And sometimes it doesn’t have to be friends or family. In 1973, I waited in line at Disney World behind a couple from Massachusetts who had moved to Georgia. Their accents were a hilarious mash-up, and I still remember the conversation.
Ditch lilies. I like lilies anyway—they’re pretty. We have a yellow day lily that blooms like sunshine day after day. But those orange ones in the ditches all over the place—they light up everything, especially when they’re sharing space with a rainbow of other wildflowers.
Speaking of lighting up, the Big Dipper and all those other star formations (I only know two, so I’m not going to try to sound smart here) give a free light show every night the clouds don’t cover them up. The moon is another extravaganza that doesn’t have a cover charge and is worth a crick in your neck to watch in every presentation from full to the slender quarter known as God’s Thumbnail. Sunrises and sunsets are amazing and awesome. Although I think both those words are overused, they’re also fitting at every dawn and every dusk.
Jokes are free and funny and good for you because they make you laugh. The more laughter you use, the more you want to use, and it never runs out. It’s not fattening, either.
Music is a balm to the spirit. I think live music is best, and it’s easy to find a place to go and listen. But when I look back to the endless years of my adolescence, I’m pretty sure the only reason I survived was that it was the Sixties and I got to listen to the best music ever on WLS and WABC (at night when it came in on the radio) and WOWO.
No one charges you for crying when you’re sad, and sometimes tears are the best salve for emotional pain.
If you are able, nothing is better exercise than walking. Reading is endless entertainment. Watching a bird and a squirrel have a conversation, kids playing baseball, or babies laughing out loud can be day-makers.
Beauty is free. Artists in galleries are always happy to see you come in. To show you the pieces of their hearts that are on display there. To explain the things about art that you might not understand. The feelings you get in those places don’t have a price on them. They are like music only you can hear.
Libraries are windows on the world—yes, I know that’s not an original thought. I admit a lot of people have to pay for cards, but the truth is there is no charge to use the resources inside the building and often the programs offered are free and open to all. These include movies, music, crafts, story-time, study rooms, and great discussion groups.
Kindness is free. Holding doors for people, smiling even if it makes your cheeks hurt because you don’t feel like it, or going through the express lane with only as many purchases as the sign allows. Remembering, when a kid is screaming, that sometimes it’s just hard being two, three, or four, and hard being the mom or dad, too. Calling and saying, “Are you okay? I miss you.”
The smell of flowers. Of sheets fresh off the clothesline. Of new-plowed earth or just-cut grass or hay or the sweetness of a baby’s neck. The sounds of birds. Of laughing. Of “hey, batter, batter…” Of “I love you, too”—always a good answer.
When I started this, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it long enough, and now I don’t know how to stop. I just went to see my sister, took her a book and shared sciatica stories. We hugged each other, said we loved each other. It was free.
So, yeah, I still like money, but once you get past the food, clothing, shelter, and health care, it’s not nearly as important as the things it can’t buy.
Have a great week. Hug somebody—it’s free.