Weather whiplash, illness, and getting “lost”

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Sorry I got lost for so long folks. But, in between sickness ruminating in our house for last three weeks, and waking up in Narnia yesterday with snow falling on trees already in bloom, I just got stuck. Stuck inside, stuck in fear and doubt, stuck hiding from the world.

Thanks to the beautiful weather this week end though, and as Cherilyn stated, prom was afoot in our neck of the woods and I got out to witness it. Although I didn’t have a child attending either, I did take photos as well and take in all the pageantry–and there is no doubt that’s exactly what it was–rivaled only by toddlers in tiaras, but not by much.

You know, it’s a sad state of affairs when a parent feels they have to drop more than a mortgage payment for their child to fit in. Especially here in the rural Midwest, where the unemployment is the highest in the entire state, you’d think someone would put their foot down. But apparently the buck doesn’t stop here.

I saw kids in dresses I know cost as much as a bride might invest in something she would wear for her big day. Not to mention Limousines, Hummers, and other high style modes of transportation. Dinner, before you go to prom and eat all evening? Of, course! Lets drop another Benjamin Franklin there for a cute couple to pick at the plate and then send most of it to the waste bin.

As much as I don’t want to sound like a cynic, I guess I am. When did we become so concerned with appearances that we lost all common sense?

In my opinion, it’s that moment when we allow our kids to require that we provide them with every little whim they think will make them fit in with the “in” crowd. $200 for Miss Me jeans? Sure, absolutely. Hair weaves? Fake nails? Kicks that cost a weeks wages? Oh sure, honey, whatever you want. But what are we teaching this next generation?

A false sense of wealth, that’s what. I never really noticed when I lived in the city, and maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that the lower the actual wage of an area the more there seems to be a prevalence of fake wealth. Let me explain what I mean. I’ve not only lived in large cities, but I’ve traveled extensively in the U.S. and abroad. In places like Aspen, Colorado, or maybe Park City, Utah, it’s not uncommon to see high priced vehicles. On an average day, you’ll see Corvettes, Hummers, and Cadillac Escalades. Those are common. They don’t stand out. However, here–in a small rural community–where the average wage is very low by any standards–you might see those as well. So, what’s the difference?

The difference is this, in Aspen those vehicles are parked in front of financially equitable homes. They are driven by people who can afford them. They drive those types of vehicles because, having paid their bills, saved, sent children to college, donated to their communities and churches, they are able to easily afford luxury. Here? Well, here you see them parked in front of mobile homes, shacks. They are often driven by people seeking what I call a pseudo sense of power. They truly can’t live comfortably, their homes and responsibilities reflect that. But, by golly they are going to go broke, or live on someone else’s dime to look good. So, do they?

In my opinion, no. In fact, in more wealthy circles, brand names on clothes or gaudy shows of wealth are just that; gaudy–tacky. As one of my friends who is married to one the highest paid attorneys in the state used to say, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” True wealth has no need to prove itself. It exists without external recognition and therefore needs no acknowledgement. And that extends to people. So, why don’t they see it?

Well, for one, modeling. The attitudes presented by parents who allow their children to be more focused on their outward appearances than their true achievements; good grades, upstanding behavior, kindness and citizenship, set a standard for those kids to live by. If you are told, or encouraged to gain the approval of others through shows of false wealth–or even true financial wealth–as opposed to having true character–what do you learn? You learn to maintain a facade. You learn to hide the truth. You grow up thinking you can’t be your authentic self and be accepted by your peers, or the world.

What a lie. To be more appropriate, what a load of crap. How many of these kids will reach adulthood only to leave their tiny fishbowl and get their lunches eaten in the real world? I see it all the time: big fish–little bowl. I’d wonder why these parents don’t see that they’re crippling their offspring, but the truth is I don’t wonder, I know why. It’s because they do the same exact thing themselves.

They hide. They keep up with the Jones. Even well into (what should be) adulthood, they are still acting like children; judging others by the size of their homes, cars, and bank accounts instead of their true value, their true worth. And as much as I’d like to feel sorry for them, I struggle. You’d think at some point they would figure it out.

So, prom has come, and gone. But graduation looms, another chance to try to out do everyone. One last chance for many, because after all the good-byes and well wishes, this generation will head out into the real world to discover for themselves the true definition of wealth, and life. I pray for them. I do. And I hope that at some point they learn to swim against the tide they’ve been tossed into. Otherwise, they may not survive, and even if they do, they surely won’t thrive.

True wealth will allude us all until we come to realize that we are not valuable because of what we wear, or drive. We have value because the God of the universe choose us from before the beginning of time. He made us, and loves us, for who we are.

You can’t improve on that, you can only accept it.

Until the next generation learns that, they will keep searching. I sure hope someone steps up to tell them the truth.

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