Want versus Need

Definitely a recurring theme around here lately – want vs. need.  Just when I think I’ve got the concept figured out, something happens that reminds me that my point of view can be very skewed.

It started with a trip to Target to pick up a few essentials.  And who can go to Target and just get what they need without wandering around for a bit and seeing all kinds of stuff that they need (want).  Youngest and I ended up in the Halloween section.  She’s thinking about her costume and dreaming big dreams – and that in my opinion is the fun part of Halloween.  Forget the candy – Who can I be?  That’s a great question.  Who/what can I dress up as?  What can I imagine?  What can I pretend?  The big night when I can wear a costume and be whoever (or whatever) I want!

She’s perusing the aisles keeping in mind the parameters.  No complete costume that costs $25.00 before accessories.  Have to use your imagination.  If we buy it this early, you can’t get bored and change your mind.

As she’s looking we can’t help but notice some of the other families around us.  Several kids each and a cart full of Halloween.  They sent the kids down the aisles and said “pick out a costume”.   And they did:  the costume, all the accessories, the matching candy bucket, and a few pricey Halloween decorations for good measure.  “Mom, I need this to go with my costume”.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not judging their purchases, decisions or child-rearing practices.  Maybe they have that kind of money.  Maybe they have good credit.  Maybe it’s their once-a-year splurge.  It’s really none of my business.

What I do know, is that my kid picked out fox ears, a fox tail, and a fox nose, said I’ll use a plastic bag for my candy or find something at home, and was done.

Not going to lie…she certainly noticed those other kids shopping.

We had a good, long talk about want and need.

About what happens when you get everything you want as a kid and then grow up.  And find out the world isn’t really all about making you happy.

About kids in this country and certainly elsewhere in the world who will never get that one night of dressing up and getting way too much candy – about the kids who will never know a decent meal, much less a piece of candy.

About this simple truth:  you can’t have it all – no matter how rich you are or how hard you try.

About being careful who you are comparing your life to when figuring out if you have enough or not.

…The people in Target who dropped about $400 for one night of fun or the folks who weren’t in Target getting anything at all?

…The people up the street who have a “nicer” house or the people around the world who don’t have any home at all?

…Our paycheck that doesn’t quite reach until the next payday or the people who don’t have a paycheck at all and would really like to be earning one.  Not to mention the folks who are working two full-time jobs or multiple part-time ones just to keep the roof over their heads.

This was her big life lesson this week.  I know she’s thinking about it.  I hope it helps her to make better and more thoughtful decisions about her wants and needs.

But, I’m afraid its not a lesson you learn once and are done.  That you get it all figured out and don’t need to worry about it any more.  There’s just so much cool “stuff” out there.  So much to want.  So many advertisements skewing our perspective.  The fallacy that “this” will make up happy.  “This” will make our house clean.  “This” will solve that problem.

It seems that I have to revisit the subject of want versus need a lot

After the Target visit,  I was thinking, “It is really time to figure out flooring for this house.  I need to get these floors done.  (Remember, we pulled up the carpet a while back).  A trip to The Home Depot ensues.  Conclusion:  no way in hell these floors are getting done any time soon.  Now I feel sorry for myself because I really need new flooring and we work hard and we should be able to have new flooring and there just isn’t enough money and it really isn’t fair….

And then…

…I’m made aware of a family I know that lost their house to foreclosure
…and am reminded of a friend who has opened up her home to two families that needed some help getting their life together
…and a group of folks that live in tents and live paycheck to paycheck and job to job and help each other out – sharing whatever they have
…and the family I know who need a new floor (not just floor covering) and a new roof and a couple of windows
And I have a good, long talk with myself about want and need.  And I’m thinking about it.  I’m hoping it will help me make better and more thoughtful decisions about want and need.  Until the next time…

2 thoughts on “Want versus Need

  1. So many poignant examples. Teaching the lesson and learning the lesson is a great challenge. Thanks for writing about how we think and what we do; often at odds with each other. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music


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