“Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” - Epicurus
Because it’s the only car we have that has air conditioning, I have been driving a 1993 Crown Victoria all summer and I will admit, that has challenged my sense of what really matters stuff-wise.
I came up in the hippie days of the mid-70s, in Boulder, Colorado where the atmosphere was nothing if not laid-back, hip happenin’ and super chill.
Needless to say, “things,” as in possessions, weren’t considered important in the big picture of who one was or where one was going.
I have pretty much kept to that philosophy during my adult life. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Clark and I like nice things — it’s just that we’ve never prioritized acquiring them. When the choice came up between a new sofa or a trip we always picked the trip, and, for the most part, have no regrets about that. Our kids grew up well-traveled and unfettered by concerns about what kind of shoes they should wear or what label was on their jeans.
There have been some embarrassing moments — moments when we rethink our modus operandi with regard to possessions. One example comes around when we get a new piece of furniture, and by new, I mean something only gently damaged from one of those “scratch and dent” furniture outlet stores. Proudly, we bring the new item home and put what it replaced out on the curb for someone else to pick up and use. Sadly, more often than not, our things sit on the curb for a long time, unclaimed until the city hauls them away as trash. Ouch! That chair never looked that shabby when it was in the house.
Car-wise, we have always been fans of the 10-yearold “retired luxury car,” as Mr. Clark calls them — an old Volvo or Mercedes, top of the line in its day, fallen victim to a newer, even more luxurious model. One of the ways I “car shop” is to spot a pretty ride in traffic and say, “Look! In 10 years that could be mine!”
Because of Mr. Clark’s period of unemployment when the recession began, we have fallen behind on our 10-year rule. Our current fleet consists of a 1994 Volvo sedan, a 1995 Volvo wagon, and the Crown Vic. Both Volvos have door and window issues, as well as no A/C. And, the poor Crown Vic was badly burglarized one Thanksgiving holiday weekend, while our son-in-law was using it in Atlanta. In two back-to-back incidents, it lost its front seat, its back seat, all four door panels, a bumper and the dome light. We were able to patch her together again, but her seats don’t match, her dome light hangs down and her windows no longer work.
Poor Crown Vic! About all she has going for her is that cold A/C, which feels like heaven on a hot summer day. Never mind how shabby we look and we do look shabby - did I mention her paint is badly faded, as well?
“Why not get some things fixed?” you might ask. Well, after that prolonged period of unemployment, the last thing Mr. Clark and I feel like doing, now that those pay checks are coming in again, is spend money - better to rebuild the savings, after all, who knows what the future might bring?
By the end of last week, however, I had lost my ability to focus on abundance and was at the end of my shabby possessions/Crown Vic rope. I had more errands and driving to do than usual, as well as a couple of photography appointments in Atlanta. Because I was so embarrassed about my ride, I arrived at those client sites red-faced and sweaty, having hiked in from a remote parking spot - classy, really classy! I had started complaining loudly about the state of our fleet; then I volunteered at the monthly food distribution the Benevolence Ministries hosts at Holly Hill Mall.
It was a much needed eye-opener for me. The line was longer than usual and it was hot, really hot. Luckily there were plenty of volunteers and things went quickly. And, as I hauled food to people’s cars, my perspective gradually returned and I became thankful again. Here were folks living out of a car that wasn’t as nice as the one I was complaining about. Here were handicapped people, out-of-work people, elderly people, young people and kids – lots of kids – lined up in the heat waiting for the brief respite from need and worry that a box of free food can bring. So many sad eyes, so many people having such hard times… As I cranked up the A/C in the old Crown Vic and headed for home, I said a prayer of thanks for the abundance in my life – an abundance that allows me to, at times, complain about having things like that good old car to fall back on.
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at lorin@barrowjournal.