Monday, August 6, 2012
Hope ... for the Low, Low Price of $8 Bucks
This post is inspired by the Great Melanie Crutchfield,
dear friend of my heart and remarkably talented writer (and all-around artist, really).
The Hope 2012 Blog Relay is her idea. If you're a blogger, check it.
The task: write about hope. I feel I've likely got 200 stories I could tell about hope, but nothing clicked for the relay until this afternoon. I was about to walk out the door and as I looked down to grab the doorknob, I went, *Gasp!* “My ring!" And then I stopped. *Gasp!* “My ring!"
And so, the story of my ring.
I was about to graduate from college and man, was I pissed. I was angry at all the dumb people running the country, the shrinking rain forests, Hummers, nuclear weapons, church building campaigns, airbrushed women, the United States, and gentrification. I ranted at my parents (who are extremely kind and good people) and I lectured my sister (aka: my captive audience). I especially detested all the lazy Christians who forgot about the poor and Jesus’ words and actually being good people.
Back in the day, my university offered a senior class trip. The class of ‘99’s was a cruise to Ensenada, México. I honestly didn’t even know about the trip, but learned about it from Grandma Betty who somehow knew about it from sneaky PLNU marketers. Gram decided to buy me the trip for my graduation gift. In response (and one of the lower moments of my life), I threw a mini-fit. I told her I couldn’t accept the gift. Right then and there, I decided that cruises were most definitely on the list of things I’m pissed at.
My stubbornness comes from my Grandma; neither of us was going to back down. She politely and firmly repeated that this was a gift, deal with it, go and enjoy myself. My tactic was to act increasingly brattier. I love my grandma more than I love pretty much anyone, so… she won. Pulling out of the San Diego harbor, on our floating paradise of luxury, indulgence, and too much neon signage, I felt guilty and shameful. It only intensified at dinner. People ordered full plates just to sample a bite. The waiters’ nametags featured their home countries, far from the US. They put on show and lit my dessert on fire.
I tried. I really did. I got dressed up and hit the dance floor. I laid out and laughed with old friends, made new friends, and ate exotic dishes. But when we were offered a chance to deboard and explore Ensenada, I raced off the ship. I wandered the streets alone, practicing Spanish and breathing in street tacos. Store windows showcased my favorite Latin-style art and fashion. Along the way, a simple ring caught my attention and suddenly I was inside, trying it on. It fit perfectly. It was just the right thickness for my long fingers. Though a mere silver band, it had been hammered enough to have a little personality. It was made of 92.5% Mexican silver. And it only cost $8. But… it cost $8. The immediate inner voice chided, “$8??!!?? On something as frivolous as jewelry?! Unacceptable.” The other, meeker voice whispered, “But it’s so prettyyyyy.” It was pure desire versus charged anti-materialism. The inner battle raged for nearly a half hour.
Then, I looked up.
One of those beautiful tile-framed Mexican mirrors held my reflection. There I was, ring in hand, pained expression on my face, and was struck by both the ridiculousness of the situation and the intensity of my conviction. Both made me cry. I held my own gaze all the way through that good cry. As the tears calmed, my face took on that tight, post-catharsis, reddish cast and the ring was now on my fourth finger. A small wallet was in my other hand, holding $50 spending money Gram had also given me. I had more than 6 times the amount of money needed to buy this dumb ring I obviously loved. It began to click. I was exchanging one preoccupation with money for another. Instead of spending it recklessly (as I had done with babysitting money in high school and judged all of the US as guilty of), I was hoarding a gift on principle. I forgot about the important place of beauty and art. In my attempt to momentarily right the economic imbalances of the world with this one purchase, I was being annoyingly ungrateful and rigid. I was blind to the sensibility and moderation of my selection. It was a long session of self-revelation and butt-kicking – and I stared into that mirror the whole time.
Still wearing the ring, I reached for the cash in my wallet. As the money moved from my hand to the cashier’s, a glint of silver flashed. In that moment, the ring transformed. It would be a symbol of my commitment to wrestle with money and to take care of my relationship with it. To recognize the lures of both greed and asceticism and not allow either to rule my life. To appreciate the big benefits and small joys that money provides and extend those to others and myself. To do a better job receiving. I would see the ring with each transaction made for the rest of my life and recall the day God and I made peace with money.
My ring is easily my favorite possession. It’s the thing I’d make sure to grab if my house was ever burning down. It flew off in Lake Kivu and I came undone until Julianna found it. 13 years later, it actually is the powerful reminder of social and financial responsibility I imagined it would be. As I grow older, though, its message deepens. It has become a small, tangible sign that people can change. Three-foot-high soapboxes can be lowered. Crusty old mindsets can soften. Tired arguments can find common ground. And self-righteous college students can learn a thing or two from their grandmothers. With all the nastiness and hatred running around making a mess of things and hurting people, I keep going because transformation exists. And that is the most comforting, most hopeful thing to me in the whole world.
Here's a photo of my ring
(with Doug's fuzzy Mary in the background, of course.)
Fabulous blogger friends of mine... you interested? If you want to join the Hope Relay, let me know!
Aly Lewis: Memoirs of Algeisha
Marte Samuelstuen: Season by Season
Tracy Le: http://cargocollective.com/tracyleeeee