Can’t See The Money For The Leaves

Since the dawn of time, man has been musing about how cool it would be to have a money tree, in some form or another.  Prehistoric man wanted a tree made of wheels.  Bronze Age man wanted a tree made of carving tools.  Disco Age man wanted a tree made of Polyester leisure suits.  Whatever the most valuable form of currency at the time, man has wanted it to sprout from the earth naturally, in an easily-harvestable seed pod.

Do me a favor and watch this video.  Then, come back and we’ll chat, shall we?  It’ll give me a chance to take a potty break.  And if you’ve read the blog, you know how critical that can be for me.

(pee break)

Welcome back!

Crazy, huh?  I don’t know who’s more fun to watch.  The people who take genuine delight in finding a dollar?  The people who totally ignore the tree?  The guy who notices the dollar on the ground, but fails to look up at the other hundred fluttering above?

Fascinating.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my internal monologue, and tune out the rest of the world.  I get very distracted.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake ten years ago of admitting to my wife that this also happens while driving.  She interpreted this comment to mean that she had carte blanche to nag/rebuke/comment on anything I do behind the wheel.   I know.  It sounds exhausting.  But somehow she manages to notice everything.  She’s over-achiever.

In fact, for Lent one year, unbeknownst to me, she gave up making negative comments on my driving.  Anytime she wanted to nag me about my seat belt, tailgating, or lack of turn signal, she would simply replace her frustrated comment with a simple “I love you” followed by a smile.

For forty days, every time we were in the car together, it was as if someone was incessantly yanking a pull string on her back.

Start engine before clicking seat belt.

“I love you.”

Back out of driveway and nearly clip the trash can.

“I love you.”

Fail to come to a full stop at the end of our street.

“I love you.”

Luckily, my internal monologue kept me from noticing how odd this all was until Easter, when she let the cat out of the bag.  I just thought she loved me.

Very much.

Yes.  I am easily distracted.

If I walked past a money tree, I would likely be the guy who didn’t see it.  Ironically, it wouldn’t be because of my internal monologue.  It would be because I also don’t tend to notice details.

Back in high school, I didn’t date a whole lot, but I was lucky enough to have a couple of serious girlfriends.  I had been going out with one particular girl for four months when I took her on what seemed like an innocent outing to the park.

We swung on the swings.  We walked barefoot in the grass.  We drank half-price Happy Hour limeades from Sonic.  It was perfect.

Until.

She turned her head, smiled, looked up at me, and closed her eyes.  Then she asked,

“What color are my eyes?”

“Blue?”  I hesitated.

I was wrong.  They were brown.  I wasn’t even on the same side of the color wheel.  Four months.  Yep.  Four months.

Needless to say, we didn’t make it.

And you think a guy would learn, right?

Gabby and I have been married for eight wonderful years.  She is the light of my life.  The honey in my tea.  The waxy chocolate on my Hostess cupcake.  We have shared the most intimate moments of our lives together.  She is the mother of my children.

She also has a beautiful tattoo on her ankle of a Japanese kanji which means “Spirit.”  However, If she were maimed in some freak farming accident and the authorities called me on the phone and asked for identifying markings, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you which leg that tattoo is on.

But I can, without hesitation, tell you where the shopping cart was invented.  (Oklahoma City, OK – 1937)

It’s not one of my more endearing qualities.

So why is this?  Why is it that I can remember some obscure facts like they were burned in my brain at birth, and other things just slip past my consciousness.  I mean, I have spent a lot of time with my wife.  A lot!  Much of it while her ankle was exposed, and other more distracting parts covered.

Why?

Because we tend to remember things that have meaning for us.  They are significant to us for one reason or another.

I remember the shopping cart detail, because it was invented in my home city, and, let’s face it, there aren’t many things about Oklahoma City that constitute bragging rights.  Unless you’re talking to someone from Arkansas.  Or North Dakota.

Yep.  I wear that Okie shopping cart as a badge of honor.

I also remember that my wife has a tattoo.  It’s part of her, and the image has meaning for her.  “Spirit.”  She’s the embodiment, so I remember.  I remember the color.  The shape.

Which leg is it on?  Frivolous detail.  But I know the tattoo.

The same holds true for the things we notice.  Even a detail-challenged guy like myself notices things.  It’s human nature.  We notice.  Especially the things we’re fixated on.  The things we’re looking for.

Notice how you rarely see a particular make and model of car on the road until you’re thinking about buying one?  Then you see them everywhere.  I never gave two hoots about a Honda CRV until we actually bought one.  Now, it’s like they’re haunting me.

As a first-person blogger, it should come as no surprise to you that I often fixate on myself.  So, if I overhear someone say my name, I notice.  If my name happens to appear lettered on a street sign or painted on an overpass, I notice.

When Gabby and I finally decided we would spend one year of our lives serving in Guatemala, we noticed advertisements touting the wonders of Central America all over the place.  License plates from Guatemala.  We noticed.   Guatemalan dishes on restaurant menus.  We noticed.

What about the Money Tree?

Internal monologue or not, I would probably notice.

As a self-employed guy, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about money.  Fixated, in fact.  Worrying about money.  Wondering about money.  How can I get more clients so I can make more money?  Do we have a solid emergency fund?  Are we saving enough for retirement?  Would life be easier if Gab went back to work, even if it meant not staying home with the kids?  Is $2.79 a good price for a box of Cookie Crisp?

I didn’t say they were all important thoughts.

And I worry about this, having lived for a year with a family that has no indoor plumbing.  A family that can’t afford to buy basic medicine.  A family that makes $200/month.  And that’s a good month.

Why do I worry at all?

I live in the wealthiest country on the planet, and enjoy the best standard of living the world has to offer.  Fifty-percent of the world lives on less than two dollars per day, and I’m wondering if we should cancel our Netflix subscription.  The sad yet hopeful truth is, I am blessed and burdened with having far more than I can use at any one time.  More food.  More space.  More stuff.

Ridiculous.

Today, my prayer is that I fixate on what’s important.  Let me notice the small things.  Let me simplify.  Let me relax.  Give me a peaceful heart, realizing the blessing that I live among community and family that will never let me go hungry, and never allow my family to be without a warm bed or solid roof.

And let me remember that I already have a money tree.  I hardly notice it at all, because it’s tucked away in my pocket.  Hidden behind wants disguised as needs.

So today, I pray for an unselfish heart to share more than I think is reasonable, and more often than I think is possible.

‘Cause generosity doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Can’t See The Money For The Leaves

  1. I totally dig this one, and I just tweeted it to all my “tweeps.”

    The money tree video was so fascinating– so American! In Guatemala I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go unnoticed, and the tree would be bare within minutes.

    But I know for sure that on most days I would pass by the tree without even looking at it. On a good day, I might stop and take a dollar and laugh about it. OK, on a good day I would take pictures and write about it. And then I would call my brother and his poor musician friends to let them know they could go out for dinner that night.

    This week I was talking with a friend who has suffered what amounts to a brain injury and I started understanding (after 10 years!) why she remembers some things clearly and others not so much. She remembers what affects her most directly and immediately. Details about other people often don’t stick, no matter how much she cares. And I think we all can be like that, but we just hide it well.

    For the record, Gabby’s tattoo is on her RIGHT ankle. Am I right??? But until reading this, I would have sworn the Kanji meant “strength.” Probably because that’s how I see Gabby? Hmm…

    As always, I love the story of giving up backseat driving for Lent. I have retold that one many times!

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