Two news stories that I read recently reminded me of something one of my grandfathers lived by: “Make do with what you have.”
The first story describes how a 17-year-old student in my hometown of Eugene, Ore., lived in a car with her mother last winter while attending school. She was one of more than 700 homeless students in the local district and one of more than 20,000 in Oregon.
The second story reported survey findings that 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and that 21 percent don’t have a savings account.
I suspect that the homeless student would welcome a savings account of any amount and that those people who don’t have such an account could easily find themselves homeless.
The student’s story drew my attention because she persisted in attending school, maintained a high grade average and aspires to become a biochemical engineer, a veterinarian or an architect.
During those months before she and her mother discovered helping hands that led them to an apartment, they slept in a car on various streets in Eugene.
“The mental logistics of eating, drinking water, changing my clothes, going to the bathroom — everything but that base level of need becomes superficial,” she said. “Decisions become simple because they’re all about survival.”
You don’t have to be homeless, however, to be concerned with “survival.”
I am certain that my parents were concerned about the future when dust storms blew across Kansas and erased any savings they may have accrued prior to the Great Depression.
I don’t recall that our family ever built much of a savings account during the years that followed. Most of our income met our needs from paycheck to paycheck.
Our father, however, often hid “extra” money around the house, including in envelopes pasted to the back of drawers. Unfortunately, he often forgot where he hid the money.
My wife and I maintained a checking account during much of our early married life and began saving money when the four children left home.
Today, we would be among those people surveyed who don’t have a savings account of more than a thousand dollars. After all, who wants to stash money in a bank that fails to offer a decent interest rate?
So, we make do with what we have and smile when we recall the story about the rich man who showed up at the Pearly Gates dragging a gunny sack.
“You can come in, but not the sack,” Saint Peter announces.
“But I made a deal with God to bring it in,” the fellow replies.
“Let’s see what’s in the sack,” the old saint says. The man lifts a huge chunk of gold out of the sack.
“Oh,” Saint Peter says, laughing. “That’s just paving.”