The other day, my mom forwarded me a link to the listing for my grandparents’ house, which is now for sale.
(You may remember that my grandpa died last year, and I went to South Dakota to see my beloved childhood place one more time.)
No one needs the house anymore, so it’s been emptied and now it’s up for sale.
As I looked at the photos, I saw the house through a stranger’s eyes and I realized: the house is nothing special.
At least, not to anyone outside of my extended family.
If I were shopping for a house and I went to see this listing, I’d just see an old, kind of outdated fixer-upper with some seriously weird bathrooms.
But to me, this house is one of the best places on earth, not because of the house itself, but because of the memories it holds.
The tiny kitchen, the unique sound the floor makes when you run up the stairs, the slightly musty smell in the basement, the odd little upstairs bathroom…all of those things are endearing to me because of the experiences I had in that house and because of how kind people there were to me.
In fact, to this day when I smell a slight scent of mildew, happy feelings come over me. Even though I KNOW mildew is not supposed to be a good smell.
So that got me thinking about how this could be a really encouraging thing for all of us to remember: that the way you treat people and the way you make them feel is what impacts them and makes good memories.
We don’t have to offer fancy, expensive stuff to the people in our lives in order to create good memories…we just have to give them love and kindness and warmth.
And that’s something you can offer no matter your financial circumstances.
By the same token, it’s possible to have really negative feelings and memories about a beautiful house, an expensive vacation, or a brand new car if there’s a lack of love, kindness, and warmth associated with those things.
It’s not that you can’t have nice material things AND love, of course…that would be a false dichotomy.
I’m just saying that when we feel like the stuff we have to offer isn’t enough, it’s really good to remember that the stuff isn’t what matters!
If my grandparents’ little 1910 home in South Dakota can feel like the happiest place on earth to me, then I think all of us probably can create good memories and happy feelings with the people around us, right where we are, right at our income level, right now.
And that’s a happy thought.
P.S. Though I think this applies to lots of relationships, I think it’s especially encouraging to think about as a parent. It’s easy to feel pressure to provide a lot of material goods to our kids, but it takes some of the pressure off if we remember that material goods aren’t the things that matter most.