Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Lost Art of Sacrifice

Sacrifice: a. the surrender of something for the sake of something else  b. something given up or lost

As a child I loved to hear my mother’s stories of her own childhood. They seemed to take place in such a different world than the one I was living in. Stories of outhouses, swimming holes, and Oklahoma dust storms. Born in 1924, my mother grew up in the heart of the depression. She was the second of four children, all girls, all within five years of age. She was four years old when her father died in 1928. Her mother was only 23 years old. One year later the Great Depression began.

My mother’s stories of this time period are ones I treasure, a glimpse into a past so different from the world we live in now. It molded her as a person. She was very frugal. We would laugh at the collected butter containers and such. But we sure enjoyed all the canning she did! She grew up with two pairs of shoes, and two dresses. One everyday set for school and play, and one set for church and other “special” times. The shoes were worn until the hole in the bottom was too big for the cardboard to cover any longer. The dress was worn until it had to either be handed down to her younger sisters or turned into rags for cleaning or “that time of the month.” Really they were lucky; they lived just outside of town with enough land to plant a garden in the summer, and to keep chickens and a cow or goat for milk. During the school year the girls had eggs and milk for breakfast and took a butter sandwich to school for lunch. My grandmother supported her little family by cleaning houses for the more well to do in town, and taking in ironing, laundry and sewing on the side.

If you are young, and unaware of our country’s history, you may wonder why they didn’t get help. Food stamps, welfare, school lunch programs, social security benefits from the deceased spouse. These programs did not exist prior to the depression. They came about mostly in response to the depression, but took decades to put in to place. The first social security payments were made in 1940, and the other programs followed. These social programs are necessary, but they did allow a change to occur in the way some people see their responsibilities for themselves and their family.

As a society survival of the fittest no longer applies. What once drove us as a species to excel is being lost. If we can’t take care of ourselves, the government will step in and help. If that is not enough, then family will help support me. If that is not enough, other charities will pay my electric bill. If that is not enough then my church has a benevolence fund. And all of this is fine…if the person doing the asking is also willing to sacrifice. Yes, sacrifice! Give up your gym membership. Give up your smart phone and iPad. Give up your pack a day cigarette habit that costs $150 per month. Make a budget and stick to it. Get a second job if necessary, or even a third. Use government money to go back to school for a college graduate degree. Take advantage of the free financial counseling available. Give up the pedicures and manicures. Give up cable TV. Explain to your children that money is finite and if they want to be in an activity or buy something then they will need to find a way to earn money. Babysitting, mowing lawns, raking leaves, cleaning houses…something, anything, so they don’t grow up thinking others will take care of them.

If we are willing to sacrifice until it hurts, then we can approach others for help. See, often those we are expecting help from have made sacrifices of their own. Family members, volunteers at charities, the church members who tithe every week to support the benevolence fund, they are already sacrificing. Should they expect any less from the people asking for help? Perhaps it is time to relearn this lost art.



  1. I couldn't agree more! Preach it, sister!