The New Year

At the end of last year I decided I needed to do some voluntary work. 2012 was dragging me down and I felt myself starting to become a person I didn’t like. Closed in, my life revolving around my kids and myself.

I decided to volunteer for my local mens homeless shelter because I see the building whenever I catch the train into the city. Deep, I know. My job was to wrap up the toothbrushes and combs that the men would be getting for Christmas in their hamper. I felt stressed and under prepared for our Christmas at home but looking in the hampers and seeing the Christmas morning that the homeless men were getting I felt an urge to relax. They were each getting some food they could prepare on the run, some tea and coffee, a can of soft drink, some athletic socks, some new underwear and a bar of soap. Finally they got a small chocolate and a mini candy cane.

My kids were getting less than many people we know. I got laid off in January. We had a hard year financially with some large unexpected (unavoidable) costs. We are remarkably lucky though that we never have to think twice about buying underwear, or socks, or soap. These aren’t luxuries for us. We have a nice house in a nice neighbourhood with great public schools. We have two newish cars without loans and a small mortgage on our house.

So why don’t we feel lucky? I think we often compare ourselves to the people we know. So the fact that my kids are in school in a more affluent area means that their circle of friends tends to have a lot of material possessions and that becomes the reference point. We have less that 18 of our 20 closest friends, hence we are badly off.

Of course it’s not true. To bastardize the quote, we have won the lottery of life already. We live in a well off country (Australia) with a solid public health system. None of us are disabled in any way. We speak our native language well and can communicate with any officials we deal with. The adults are tertiary educated and the children are receiving very good quality primary/secondary educations. I have a great community around us, with lots of access to free and very low cost culture options.

So my task for this year is to appreciate this more. To dwell on what I have, not what I could have. And to that end I will be setting some regular goals and holding myself accountable on this blog. My first challenge is that I will not spend any money on clothes or cosmetics this month. I will use what I have, and stay away from! And I will let you know how I go.



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