As Americans cast a cautious eye toward the stimulus package that President Obama recently signed into law, many are hoping that the sweeping legislation – the largest of its kind since the Great Depression – will help ease economic woes.
But this legislation isn't the only thing the current national and international economies have in common with the Depression era. Now, as in the 1930s, people appear to be rethinking their values. Quietly, one at a time, many are challenging the get-rich-quick mind-set that has prevailed for the past two decades and are replacing it with a more thoughtful approach to work and family and daily life. In the process, many are discovering that – just like that song from the 1927 Broadway musical "Good News" says – "The best things in life are free."
The words to this song came as inspiration to a woman in a rural mountainous area of California recently while she was taking her morning walk. Like many, she was living on what seemed like a limited income. In an attempt to be frugal, she'd done all the obvious things – cut back on dining and trips to the movies and canceled her membership in a gym. Still, she often found she was dipping into her savings to pay the bills.
It was just as she reached the bottom of the hill she most liked to climb that she thought of the words to that song. The trek up this hill was steep, providing a good stretch for the back of her legs – in fact, a better stretch, she suddenly realized, than the exercise machines at her gym had provided at $85 a month. She chuckled, and after completing the climb, turned around to admire the view. It had been raining in California, substantially enough to challenge the drought that's been going on for several years. She could see snow across two mountain ranges. Low-lying clouds graced the valleys. The avocado groves and grassy hillsides were green, green, green. Meanwhile, many species of birds sang in the nearby field.
She'd often thought of that view from the top of "her" hill as her "prize" for taking the climb. Now she stopped and considered the words of St. Paul: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you" (Phil. 3:13–15).
She knew the prize Paul was talking about could come only as a result of one's heartfelt search for more spiritual growth – for a deeper understanding of God. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, are these words: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" (p. 4).
As she stood at the top of the hill for a few more minutes, the woman could see that her "need" wasn't for more money – or more nights out on the town! – but for "growth in grace." She found herself just being grateful for her home, her family, even the public library, that she was using more often for books and films. Then, refreshed – and feeling a new confidence that God, her heavenly Parent, the Giver of all good, would continue to guide her every decision, even in difficult economic times – she took a deep breath and headed home, determined to let the gratitude she'd felt at the top of that hill be the basis from which she viewed the rest of her day.
A small event – but filled to the brim with grace.