Discerning Needs from Wants

Thomas - Statesville, North Carolina
Entered on March 15, 2009

I believe in being able to differentiate “wants” from “needs”. This belief first was impressed upon me in Law School. Most of those in my First Year class were accustomed to receiving top grades. “Everything’s about to change,” we were warned. “Your grades will be be much, much lower,” the threat continued. Despite the warning, I about passed out when the grades were distributed. It was disappointing, even depressing to have hard work rewarded so modestly. Yet, I survived and even prospered in the next two years. No, I did not want to be just average. Yet average grades taught me humility, something useful for a would-be attorney. I also learned about hard work, which, along with divine intervention, enabled me to pass the bar on the first try.

A legal career, at least the one promoted by law schools, involves membership in a prestige law firm, endless billable hours and financial prosperity. A bad economy shattered such illusions for me, if ever I had them. Lacking any job prospect, I was forced to go it alone, working by day in a solo law practice and moonlighting as a banquet server to supplement the meager income of my practice and my wife’s retail salary. A disappointment ? Most definitely. But through perseverance, I was able in a year to quit the night time banquet routine, earned a sold profit and began to focus on what was to eventually be my life’s work: working on behalf of the legal needs of abused, neglected and dependent children.

A final lesson came from my daughter, who, in the First Grade, was diagnosed with a moderate hearing disorder. At the time, my wife and I were unaware of her hearing loss and were profoundly affected when we learned that our genes had combined to tragic affect, rendering our daughter with a disability that would burden her all her life. Tragic, that is, until we were let in on a secret: our daughter read lips and, despite her hearing loss, was very able to understand the world around her. Importantly, she didn’t know she her hearing was lacking, being completely unaware of what hearing children each day took for granted. What was important for her, what she needed, was to be able to communicate. God gave her what she needed. The manner in which she communicated, something my wife and I had placed great emphasis upon, was an unimportant “want”.

It is a daily struggle to sort the wheat from the chaff, that which is necessary and essential for life from that which merely makes it convenient. Such discernment, to my thinking, is the beginning of wisdom. While I am far from being “wise”, I have found the necessity in seeking such wisdom. The quest for such wisdom for me has been difficult and the lessons have been learned with the greatest difficulty. Yet despite the difficulty, to have such understanding of needs over wants is one of the things that I truly believe.