OPINION – When we find ourselves caught up in the growing economic uncertainty of our time, it’s sometimes necessary to take a step back in order to get our bearings once again.
Much of the unease being expressed today over the rising cost of living and the shrinking dollar has more to do with our ability to enjoy our favorite material pursuits and less to do with our ability to survive.
It brings to mind a tale from beloved British storyteller and veterinarian James Herriot describing a particular day during which his work took him from one economic extreme to the other.
Early in his day, he was called to tend to the dog of a man who had made a fortune as a shipping magnate. Herriot recounted how he marveled at the beauty of the man’s estate with its immaculate grounds, marble floors and the finest luxuries money could buy. But even those palatial surroundings could not offset the sneering contempt with which this man’s pampered wife and daughter treated him as they left the mansion to go shopping.
As he took his leave, Herriot related the impression he had of how lonely and powerless this captain of industry appeared in the midst of all his treasures.
Later that day, Herriot’s rounds took him to the far reaches of the county to a hard-scrabble farm atop a windy hillside where a tired old farmer in threadbare clothing labored tirelessly to meet his family’s daily needs.
As Herriot was preparing to leave, he noticed the farmer’s sixteen-year-old daughter stealthily wheeling a bicycle toward the gates and asked where she was headed. She replied that since her father had been up all night tending to a sick animal, she was going to ride into town to purchase a pint of Guinness as a surprise for him.
What made this remarkable in Herriot’s mind was the fact that she was about to undertake a sixteen mile round trip in cold weather, on a bicycle, for the sole purpose of bringing a smile to her father’s face.
Upon completing his work that day, Herriot wrote of how the stark contrast of the two homes kept returning to his mind.
One family was surrounded by enough material wealth to inspire jealousy in a king, yet they lacked any sense of real concern for one another. The other family struggled for existence in the most humble of circumstances yet loved each other enough that they were willing to give abundantly of themselves.
Herriot wrote that after carefully contemplating the two situations he came to the conclusion that, “All things considered, I’d rather have the Guinness.”
The great lesson illustrated by this story is that, as desirable as luxury and opulence may be, material things have never been the sole determinant of real happiness or fulfillment in life. Deteriorating economic circumstances may require a decisive tightening of our belts.
But it’s still entirely possible to find lasting joy in the things that have always been worth more in the long run.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright 2012 St. George News.