This I Believe

LeeAnn - Virginia Beach, Virginia
Entered on December 4, 2006

I believe that some of life’s lessons aren’t meant to be taught. By most peoples’ standards, I grew up in the lower class of society; we always had clothes on our backs and food on the table, but my family’s housing situation was not so fortunate. For 200 dollars a month, my parents rented a house with terrible drafts and rickety doors. We had no central heating, air conditioning, or hot water. We had a washer for a while, but when the water bill skyrocketed we stopped using it. Of all these things that we didn’t have, the only thing that I hated not having was a touch-tone phone. I remember watching Nickelodeon when I was a kid, and they would have contests where you would have to call an 800 number to win a prize, and at the very end of the announcement they would say, “Touch-tone phones only.” I would then look at our ancient rotary phone in disgust. When we finally did get our touch-tone phone I called and called and called until I finally won a shirt from Old Navy, long before anyone even knew what Old Navy was. Christmas was the only time that my sister and I asked our parents for anything; the rest of the year we made mental notes of what to ask for when Christmas rolled around. These notes were rendered useless, because once we opened the presents we got everything that we needed and something that we didn’t know we wanted (a gift that wasn’t on the list but was still cool anyway).

It used to be that whenever the subject of childhood came up I would say that mine sucked; then I got a little older and realized that I was more privileged than I thought. Yes, we had a crappy house. Yes, the water was cold, and yes, it took years before I could win that Old Navy shirt. Then I left material possessions out of it and looked back on my parents: both keeping full-time jobs while trying to raise two daughters, both doing the best that they could to keep our stomachs full and the clothes on our backs; and in turn, both teaching my sister and I that if we want something we have to go out and get it ourselves. I’m sure that it was not always their intention to deny us the things that we wanted; it was a matter of finance, not discipline. But it showed us that things weren’t always going to be handed to us.

Now I’m twenty years old paying for everything that I want and need. I bought my car by myself, I pay my own cell phone bill, the clothes I want I buy…and the money I spend is money I’ve earned. It’s money that makes me proud because I worked for it, just like my parents worked (and still work) for theirs. And it’s money that I don’t mind sharing with them, because they shared with me one of the most important lessons I ever learned.