Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people about money. We all seem to have too little (or feel like we do), and we all are tired of having too little. Some of us do have little money – maybe barely enough to pay our bills and buy groceries. Some of us have enough but still want more. Some of us have far too little and go hungry or without medical care because of this. The reality is that money is important.

Stuff is also important. We need clothes (if we don’t want to be arrested). We need food. We need a place to live. We are people with needs, and there is nothing wrong with that. We were created to be needy.

However, I think we often decide that we can meet our own needs. We can buy things, work harder, save more and everything will be okay – at least this is the lie we tell ourselves. If we just did more, had more, kept more, all would be well, right? Wrong.

Yesterday, my friend Shawn posted this great write-up on our idea of false comfort. He explores the way we try to seek comfort in things, and I was really struck by his statements, so much so that I began to think about what I could live without. What things could I get rid of and still be “okay,” and able to function on a daily basis?

I’m still working through that idea in my life, but here’s what I’ve learned in my “lower income” status – money and stuff do not help through the darkest parts of life. Sure, not having to worry about money is nice (at least I think it is – I’m not sure I’ve ever achieved that level of detachment), but it doesn’t solve a life’s problems. People still hurt us and us them. Work still doesn’t go well every day. Children get hurt or scared. Disasters strike the planet. These things happen no matter what we have or don’t have. Things do not help.

What does help is “the real stuff.” Relationships, beliefs, hope, prayer. No amount of money or rice pudding will really make me feel better when I’m having a rough week. No amount of shopping or entertainment eases pain, at least not in the long run. What heals us, what makes us whole and healthy has much more to do with time, wisdom, listening, and waiting. It’s not easy, but at least if we sit with “the real stuff” we don’t make more problems for ourselves in the long run.

So today, as I watch my bank account zero out again before I get paid this weekend, as I give away more books and CDs, and I long for a new pair of jeans that fit and look “cute,” I remember that is the REAL stuff that matters – a meal with a friend, coffee with a pal, the giggle of a baby, the glory of an orchid, words that come out just right, and the peace that passes understanding.

Ghost Orchid – Ghost Orchid