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Where I grew up life was tough. Even as children, we had long days of working, helping in the garden and in the kitchen. I assumed this was just how it was. In those days when, like all children I said to myself "I'm out of here" or "I'll never live like this when I grow up", I was always daydreaming of a better life. My definition of a better life was a city life, one where I could do anything I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it, in the fast pace of city lights. I could not wait to leave the country setting way behind me.
What I didn't know was all of those days of canning, raising our own food, chores till dark was what I knew, you know the county way of doing things. My grandma taught me all of the tricks I use today in my life. All of the stories, the lessons on life's dos and don'ts are what I strive to live by in my life today.
I never questioned if what I was being told was the truth, I never had to question anything. Honesty, being true to yourself, owning who you are, and knowing what you have become is the only way I was ever taught. Yes, I worked hard, harder than any of my friends ever had to. The lessons I learned while doing whatever the chore was that day, no one could really ever learn from a book.
My grandma did things the way her mother did them and it goes back many, many years. Being honest was a must, not only to others but to yourself. Working hard was honest work; that's what I was raised to believe. Everything happened in my small county, which today has approximately 5,000 people. Your neighbor knew your name, address, and every other thing about you. Everything was how it had been for generations before me; and I believe it still is that way today.
As I had always said the "big city" was what I wanted. Finally leaving the small town behind, I would never imagine what makes up who I am today is so very small town. If I could have passed anything down to my children, it would have been live this way. I believe it is the best and the only way, to live. My motto: Work hard at what you do, always tell the truth, face your demons, and never be anything other than what God created you to be - no matter what that is.
Most importantly, forget about what you don't have and be thankful for what you do have. For years, I did not allow anyone to really know me, where I was from, or why I am the person I am, and that was not being honest in any way.
I was embarrassed of hand-made clothes, or the family car being parked outside of Salvation Army. While others were spending their summers at the pool, we were in the fields growing what we would eat all winter long. Passing down our clothes to the next one in line was a given; patches and all. I never can remember "things or possessions" being even a tiny part of who we were.
Once moving to the city, pretty much everything people knew me for was not anything that I was taught growing up as being important - and that was simplicity, love, family, loyalty, being a true friend and being thankful for what you have. Even though I'm quite sure not every small town is exactly the same, I do have hope the values are. Having family get togethers, reunions, somebody having your last name, yes belonging, and knowing your neighbor is always there for you if you need them.
I haven't felt that in a very long time. Yes, the "Big City" is where I landed. Now I know with age came wisdom, and now I have all of my values in tact. The Salvation Army has become a trend now. Growing your own food means eating organic. Being able to pass along your clothes is a blessing; and having your health so you can work hard each day - is miraculous. I've come to realize, it's not money or your zip code that matters, it's all of the stories that have been handed down and told from generation to generation.
Even though the days were long and we weren't rich in money, I now see how my grandma was one of the wealthiest women I have had the pleasure of knowing. She had eight children, one of those being my daddy who was my hero on this earth. He wanted me to know what was really important, not to get caught up in all of the things that are not real. Most importantly, being true and honest to others is being honest with yourself. When doors open, you need to know who is on the other side and exactly what you are walking in to.
Contrary to popular belief - money does not buy you happiness; although I'll admit it would make life easier sometimes. I have been taught so many ways to save money, know good product, how to patch a pair of jeans, how to stretch the food, all of the thrifty - now trendy things - that have always been my heritage and a part of life. Understanding how important it is to be true to yourself, I am thankful for all of those lessons.
All of those early plans seem funny now. Life has a way of changing paths but that doesn't mean dreams have to change. I'll always do the things I was taught, trendy or not. I will continue to pray to be as rich a woman as my grandma was. I feel so very lucky for the small town values I was taught as a child, and for always seeking the truth. Being thrifty is being smart and being honest is the only way to start and end each day.
Maybe one day, I will have someone to tell all of those stories to, remembering the stories have lived way longer than Grandma, Daddy or I. The main story being that truth never changes and only blesses others. Small town or big city, I am still me.
By Luana M. from San Diego, CA