Life always evens out

Ronda Rich's picture

Among the many things I have learned in this life is how everything evens out, how those who are mighty and rich can become lowly and poor while the lowly and poor can become mighty and rich.

I have seen many examples of both, which often reminds of the truths taught to me by my parents.

“Don’t get above your raisin’,” they intoned often, meaning simply to stay true to who I was, what I was and from where I came.

In the early, winsome days of my youth, I tried mightily to rise above my raising, thinking that riches and success were more important than the core values of my solid upbringing. But the good Lord has a way of plucking us back from frivolous youthful ideals and reminding us innately of who we are and what we should do.

Now, as I take departure from the summer of my life, I am grateful for the simple wisdom of my parents. It serves me well.

Mama and Daddy were both simple folks who believed in the value of hard work and frugality. Neither ever possessed a credit card, though there were small bank loans from time to time, such as a $3,500 mortgage once and an occasional good, used car. We raised our own beef and pork and even made sausage that others were eager to buy.

A summer’s garden yielded a winter’s worth of vegetables while Mama was particularly proficient in “puttin’ up” vegetable soup. Endless quarts of home-canned tomato juice and green beans lined the shelves of our pantry. Both grew up in the Great Depression, so it was never forgotten that hard times, unannounced, could visit again.

Daddy never got over the pain of losing 50 cents in a bank that went belly up in the financial failures that littered the years of Herbert Hoover’s presidency. He didn’t exactly distrust banks but there was always a leeriness that lurked in his practical mind. In a safe deposit box in one of those banks, he kept enough cash to see us through if the need arose.

Mama sewed our clothes, making even my sister’s wedding dress and so many of my own clothes that I yearned for something, anything, that was store bought.

When I was 14, Daddy gave me the money to buy the prettiest dress I had ever seen. It was a peasant-style, beige gauze with a ruffle and neckline that was trimmed in several inches of matching lace. It was the happiest purchase of my life, so joyous that the dress hangs on a dress form in a guest bedroom as an important reminder.

Though there was a time in my erstwhile youth that I did not live frugally, there came a time when Mama’s and Daddy’s lectures resounded loud and clear. I began to shop with coupons, limit my gas use by carefully scheduling errands, shopped for bargains, drove cars for as long as 10 years at a time, was diligent to save and, if there was something special and expensive that I wanted, I put extra money aside until I had enough to pay cash for it.

I did this in the years when self-indulgence and extravagant spending was cool. As usual, I was not a part of the in crowd.

Now, the financial tide has changed. Some people who were up are now down and some people who were down are now up. An evening out of things, you might say. When budgeting and financial conservativeness became hip terms, one of my equally frugal friends shrugged and said, “I’m not doing anything different than what I’ve always done.”

Sometimes I look at that dress in my guest room, remembering the time that Daddy pulled the cash from his wallet and told me to buy it.

“Don’t get above your raisin’,” I can hear him say.

I hear it loud and clear.

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newspaper.]

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