Going Without

FamilyWhen I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money which meant that sometimes we had to go without. For me, that meant I mostly got hand-me-downs to wear, and I rarely got the latest, greatest toy that TV was advertising on cartoon shows.

Doing without didn’t mean we were hungry, though I guess there were a few times we came close to having no money for food. I seem to remember a time someone left a bag of groceries on our front porch, and my dad, a college teacher, took a second job as a door-to-door salesman.

We had days when our evening meal—normally dinner—consisted of spam sandwiches and cornmeal mush. I know it may not sound appetizing, but I personally liked it a lot. Only as an adult did I realize this was a meal we had because we couldn’t afford much else.

There were lunches when Mom fed the five of us from one can of Campbell’s condensed soup. Admittedly, the cans were bigger in those days, but still, that wasn’t a lot of soup. Some years ago I asked Mom how she managed it, and she said she just added more water. I do remember one time sort of whining when I realized she was going to open only one can: “Aw, Mom, can’t we please have two cans?”

But the bottom line is that I didn’t really realize most of the time that we were going without.

We didn’t have a TV for years, and when we did finally buy one, it was black and white (yes, they used to make those). We had that TV for years—maybe until I was a senior in high school, and we moved out of the country.

Despite going without as a kid (and not realizing it), I lived an adventurous life. And a secure one. We moved with some frequency, but we had a home base in Colorado where we owned some mountain property. My dad and brother, with help from Mom and us girls and anyone who wanted to visit and help, built a real log cabin. We sort of camped out at first, then Dad put up a one room building we fondly called the shack, which we lived in until the cabin was ready. Neither place had electricity or running water or indoor “facilities.” We had a mountain stream where we got our water and an outhouse where we did our business. 😉

But none of this was part of going without. This was all a part of being so blessed we enjoyed adventurous living. I could tell stories about hiking to a fire tower a few miles above us, to the beaver dams below us, or to rocks we named (Alan’s Rock, Armchair Rock, Bed Rock). Then there were the cook outs we had at the Peak or pine cone fights with my brother. I could tell you about the bear that visited and the evenings spent reading stories as a family.

Yeah, none of that had anything to do with going without.

Going without was picking up furniture second hand and driving old cars. But really, that’s not going without.

The point of all this reminiscing is that I think going without taught me the value of stuff—none of it is worth as much as we think. I was happy growing up with less. Not because of what we had or didn’t have but because stuff didn’t rule our lives. We had an old couch, so never thought about putting plastic covers over it like my uncle did with his new, matching living room furniture.

On top of that, God provided (see above the paragraphs about adventurous living).

Who else has this whole forest to play in? Part of the play involved hauling water and helping to bring in firewood. We got to unpack the barrels where we kept the cabin stuff and to wash clothes by hand. There was a sense of family pulling together to survive—everybody chipping in, everybody bringing something important to the table.

There we were, no telephone, no car—we had to hike in because the road was too rough and at that time we were too poor for a jeep. Only a kerosene lamp, a lantern, and flashlights. We heated water to wash, used the cold mountain stream as our refrigerator to keep food cold. And there was only a sense of adventure, a joy in the everyday tasks.

Sure, this was short term. We didn’t live in the cabin year-round. But the value of going without is priceless, and lasting. Because it was abundantly clear that we didn’t need a TV to be happy or entertained. We didn’t need a lot. We needed each other, and that was probably the most important take-away for me.

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 6:04 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. Well said indeed. Going without really is a priceless gift and it helps one to get a good feel for what is truly important. There are some people today who have everything and yet they are so miserable! They do not know that sense adventure, the joy, the self reliance that one gains from such experiences. I know it is a bit crazy, but sometimes I feel bad for those who have everything but are so lost inside. I work for people who are rattling around in huge homes, but so desperately lonely.

    It’s somewhat funny, the way many of us grew up, we now try to give our kids a taste of that, it’s called “camping.” LOL, it can get very expensive and elaborate too, but there is just something wonderful about getting out in nature and remembering who and what you are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, IB.

      When I was in college, someone asked me if I liked camping. I said I’d never been. YOU’VE NEVER BEEN?? They couldn’t believe it. But then when they started telling about their experiences—their RVs and the parks they camped in—I thought, I’ll take my cabin experience over your camping. 😉

      The part I didn’t tell in the post was that during those days at the cabin, I first began to make up stories. We had these little plastic cowboy and Indian figurines—this was back in the day when westerns were very popular—and I used to sit outside making cities and hideouts and planning bank heists and heroic captures of bad guys. I truly loved making up those stories.

      But to the point, I’m so grateful God knew what was best for me. I think some people can do well growing up with everything, possibly because their parents teach them to be generous and not to put their trust in what they own or to look down on others with less.

      I suspect that would not have been me. Sad to say, but I would probably have been one of those you felt sorry for.

      I never thought I was suffering, but I believe God used our lack of material wealth to teach me a LOT!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent perspective, Rebecca. We have such abundance that doing without usually means one less latte out or not getting the latest _______. Jesus said it would be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom, and I suspect it is in part due to the fact that all that stuff gets in the way! It consumes our time, our mind and our money. We all need to learn to do without… Regularly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A wonderful childhood. I grew up comfortable but longed for the type of family time you had. When I married, I married into 13 years of poverty. My kids had the corn meal mush. I think we all liked it, too. They didn’t know what they were missing so it was easier for them. I just wished I could have a little spending money. Our poverty was not caused by normal situations, though. It was caused by one person’s selfishness. That makes a difference, too. I always tell people to rejoice in the love of family. It is such a treasure.
    Gave up TV a couple of years ago and have been blessed ever since!


  4. Well done! And timely with all of the people who are intentionally shedding their ‘stuff’ in order to live life more abundant and free. 🙂


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