The Best Things In Life…

If I started out singing, “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds an’ bees…”  could you finish the next line of the song?  “I need money, that’s what I want” and it’s one of those songs that came to mind while writing this post.  Before today, I didn’t even know who wrote it let alone originally recorded it.  According to Wikipedia, “Money (That’s What I Want)” is a 1959 hit single by Barrett Strong for the Tamla label, distributed nationally on Anna Records. The song was written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, and became the first hit record for Gordy’s Motown enterprise.” Wikipedia: Money (That’s What I Want)

Thanks to GrooveShark.com, you can hear Barrett Strong sing it here…

Barrett Strong might have first recorded it, but I am more familiar with a 1979 cover performed by The Flying Lizards; and before today I didn’t even known the band’s name.  From the rockumentary provided by the YouTube link below, it seems The Flying Lizards’ cover of Money (That’s What I Want) enjoyed popular music success more by experimental accident than by creative brilliance.

Deborah Evans-Stickland, lead singer (or is it speaker) for the Lizards, with her professed public school accent is amongst many popular artists who also covered the song; some of whom include The Beatles and The Doors.

From my own experience, the song writer makes his point when he expresses how love doesn’t pay the bills. Perhaps the irony between love being free and it not paying bills is what most resonates with listeners.  Infatuation, puppy love, love at first sight, a crush, love’s first kiss; these are both free and truly exhilarating in the moment.  Commitment. Now that’s a love that costs.  For us mortals here on Earth, it might even be the most expensive kind of love.

Recently, at a friend’s going away party she was given The Book of Awesome.  The book’s novelty describes everyday experiences in life that are deemed to be awesome.  Included are examples like going to buy something just as a new cashier opens up, almost as it the checkout lane was opened just for you.  When a parking spot nearest the door frees up just as you arrive–that’s more awesomeness.  Snow Days, the kind where you get to stay home from work or school, these too are considered awesome.  Looking through the book, it occurs to me that many of the awesome things mentioned in the come without a price tag, thereby making the awesomeness all the sweeter.

My seven year-old son repeatedly converses with me about, “What if everything in the world was free?”  On other occasions, he suggests how cool it would be if things in stores cost nothing.  I seem to recall having the same crazed idea at his age.  Looking through the Sears catalog, I would imagine having anything printed on the page simply by touching it, and for some unknown reason, that would apparently make me happier–not just to own one or two things, but to have it all.  My son seems to have the same ideas of material happiness when he dreams about his imaginary world full of free-ness.

We as adults dream in similar ways, only we believe it’s more sophisticated.  For only a few dollars, if we so choose to play the lotto, we imagine what all we could buy and how happy we would be if… if only we might win that jackpot.  Or we go to the mall and buy shoes, but not just one pair.  Often we’re enticed to buy one and get another free because regardless of whether we need more than one pair, two pairs for the price of one is just too good to pass up.

The Christmas Season is just winding up. How many gifts this year did you re-gift this year?  Much to my own surprise, I re-gifted more items than ever before.  Many of my re-gifts originated from delightful items given to me by co-workers.  Loved ones received most my re-gifts and I would like to think it was my generous spirit, but honestly, it was more about stretching my dollars.  This year giving re-gifts was amongst the best things in life for me (and my over-stretched pocket book).  After all, I was able to project love and giving without having to pay full price for it.

But do we really appreciate that which costs us nothing?  Things that are given to us freely, do we tend to take them for granted?  I’m sure you know College or University students that squandered their parent’s money while partying it away at school.  You probably also know students that held down part-time jobs while struggling to earning their education.  My assumption is that the student that works for their education has a greater appreciation of her earned degree or diploma.

As a matter of faith, I believe my salvation in Jesus Christ is offered freely  to me and to every person.  But for me to be a practicing disciple of Christ, His follower, the cost is significant.  And if Grace, God’s gift of undeserved favor, didn’t cost the believer like me anything, it certainly cheapens the Grace given.

And some free things in life on the surface appear great, but often come with unexpected consequences.  A friend of mine once worked where the employer provided free cans of soda to its employees.  Initially this sounds like a generous benefit, but my friend attests, drinking an excess of soda caused him significant and unwanted weight gain.  Similarly, my kids think a restaurant buffet that with unlimited free ice cream dessert is heaven on earth.  Hours later, between the sugar downers and the aftermath of their upset stomachs, to me, the parent, unlimited free ice cream seems more like hell than heaven.

For free things to actually be best, it might actually have more to do with the recipient and his attitude surrounding the circumstance. I’m not usually one for New Year resolutions, but in 2011, I’m making an exception. This year, in theme with much of this world’s emphasis on economic austerity, I’m endeavoring to make the most of free, but not just free-ness.  Only the best things in life, not necessarily extravagant or excessive, and both free or otherwise.

My Resolution for 2011 — In my day-to-day routine I endeavor to:

  • Attune my senses to more carefully watch for awesomeness (like in the Book of Awesome).  And when awesomeness is found, not to ignore it, or take it for granted, but to recognize and celebrate it for how I’ve been blessed.
  • Be weary of things marketed to me as free–to flee from things I don’t need to further clutter up my house.  And even if Starbucks promises me another free drink after purchasing 15 drinks, I will resist their perceived urgency to buy more from Starbucks.
  • Develop an attitude of appreciation and to be content whatever the circumstances, free or otherwise.