What’s it worth to you?

The good things in life cost what they cost. The unnecessary things are not worth it at any price. The key is being aware of the difference.

[Holiday and Hanselman, The Daily Stoic, New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2016, p. 97]

My grandmother spent more money buying groceries than most of her friends. When asked why, she’d always say: You pay at the grocery store or the doctor’s office. One way or another, you pay. She thought it a lot more fun to spend money on food than doctor’s bills. Keeping healthy costs what it costs.

I’ve been buying groceries and making meals for over thirty years now, and spending more at the market than many of my friends and neighbors. I buy things grown and raised locally whenever possible. It adds a good $30 to my grocery bill every couple of weeks, sometimes more. I try my best not to waste any of it – composting vegetable peels, putting stale bread ends out for the squirrels and birds, making stock from chicken and turkey bones, growing herbs and vegetables in season, and making baked goods at home. Eating out or buying pre-prepped food from the market is an occasional act. At the end of the month, I doubt I pay more than anyone else to feed my family – it just takes a lot more time and planning to do it this way. Outside the yearly check-ups, visiting a doctor is very rare. I can’t help thinking my grandmother was right: you pay at the grocery store or the doctor’s office.

What about other good things in life, ones not so easily seen or touched as food on a plate? Fostering the lives of family and friends, spending time with God, enjoying the natural world, covering the basics of food, clothing, and shelter: these good things cost what they cost. Sometimes the cost is in dollars and cents handed over a counter, sometimes the cost is time away from earning money or having fewer possessions and vacations in order to be an involved parent and partner without living in constant exhaustion. Good things cost what they cost.

I can’t tell you what the good things in life cost you. In my own life, I’ve had to choose what was worthwhile and what wasn’t, because there isn’t enough time in the day, energy in my body, or money in my account to have both. I can tell you that the good things have been worth every penny, effort, and minute they cost. A joyful life, the chance to serve others, the beauty of the earth, and the loving God who holds it all.

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