I was recently in the city. Standing on the side of the road putting money in the meter, these two twenty-somethings pass by, the one mockingly tossing off, “Time to get a new car.” I didn’t say anything despite the rage their words gave me. Part of it was thinking they were right. I drive a 2006 Toyota Corolla with well over 130,000 miles on it. It is dented in places, missing a hubcap, and dirty due to the air.
Throughout the day I couldn’t stop thinking about what they said. Eventually I stopped obsessing over their words and asked myself why the opinion of a stranger mattered at all.
My life isn’t an easy one. I am putting two daughters through college, support my wife’s parents, and have a younger daughter with autism. My wife and I want to have another child and difficulties have forced us to go to a fertility clinic. My wife has had two miscarriages in six months. We keep trying despite the cost knowing we are meant to have one more child. My autistic child requires special schooling that insurance does not cover. We needed a new car for my wife and I purchased her an SUV. Factor in other costs taking care of a large family and it starts to really get expensive. My bonuses go to give them what they need. Sometimes I work fifty-sixty hours a week. I don’t ask for gifts on my birthday and rarely buy myself anything. Some nights I rarely sleep worrying and wondering.
Time for a new car? I realized it wasn’t. It may be dinged and old, but it still runs wonderfully. It’s not the prettiest vehicle but it accomplishes what it is supposed to. I have so many responsibilities that impressing strangers takes a solid second.
That kid didn’t know what he was saying. He is part of a culture that demands we always buy the newest, shiniest model or face mainstream ostracism. Appearances matter from selfies to tweets to the latest Snapchat. Fleeting fads. Treasure today is trash tomorrow. The owner becomes owned vanishing within a hollow shell.
Being young, you think you are the center of all Creation. Insular immaturity, you are special and unique and no one could ever compare to these early experiences. Self-importance swells. But all that’s an illusion. Overtime you discover we are all the same from the poorest untouchable to the richest corporate head. The human experience is special but you are far from unique in the travails you will experience and the myriad memories you’ll make.
One day they’ll discover it isn’t likes or bling that matters. It’s those personal moments you share, building a life. And if you don’t have the newest toy, at least your child does. Selflessness is substance.
What you own does not define you, and those with the most possessions are the most weighted down. My car is a symbol of the sacrifices I have made for those I love. It silently stands as a testament of selflessness.
The rage is gone, replaced with the happiness I feel for the love my family gives me. I don’t need or want. I am content.