Things that Do and Don’t Matter

By Ken Wells - 04/02/2022


Series Three: Blog Eighteen

I grew up in a family of 9 children. Mom and Dad were blue collar workers. My dad worked at a factory, mowed yards and pumped gas at a service station. My mom cleaned houses, business offices and a church. Covering the financial needs for 9 kids required a lot of creativity on their part. My mom and dad knew how to stretch a dollar. We lived a life of rationing goods and services throughout my entire childhood. The usual rations included walking to and from church to save on gas. Hand me down clothing didn’t even seem like a ration. It just seemed like the normal way you got your next set of clothes. We took baths once a week. It was always a Saturday night so to be clean for church the next day. There was an invisible line on the bath tub, and you were taught that you don’t fill the tub higher than that line. They rationed milk. The rule was a glass of milk or milk on cereal but not both. They rationed a carton of ice cream by slicing it so that everyone got an equal amount. They rationed electricity. On a hot summer night, mom would come up in the middle of the night and turn off the fan to save electricity. Of course, you never left a room leaving the light on. Everything mattered. As an adult, I laugh about it. But then it was a way of life.

The hand-me-down process for clothing did not always work. Shoes were always a problem. There seemed to be a lot less supply. We were always told community information at breakfast. My mom would make announcements of who was in the hospital, family break ups and who died while we were eating breakfast. During breakfast when I was in the 7th grade my mom announced that Tony McKibben, an older guy who lived down the street, suddenly dropped dead from a heart attack. A few weeks after Mr. McKibben died and was buried, his widow contacted my mom and told her she wanted to get rid of all his clothes. She wanted us to come down and rummage through his stuff and pick out what we wanted. He had several pair of shoes, and I was in line to get “new” shoes. So my mom told me to go down and pick out a pair of shoes. McKibben was a little guy but was about my size when I was a 7th grader. My tennis shoes had holes in them and I was tired of going to school on rainy days with cardboard in the bottom of my shoes. My sock would get soaking wet. But, I didn’t want to wear a dead man’s shoes either. So I told my mom I really didn’t need any shoes to which she objected and insisted that I select a pair of McKibben’s shoes. So I did. All I could think of were 2 things. The shoe style was that of an old person, and every time I put the shoes on I was dominated with the thought that they were a dead man’s shoes. But, I wore them until they wore out and the cardboard in the bottom of the shoes finally became useless.

Upon reflection, I muse about the sacrifice necessary to make a relationship intimate. No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy intimacy.  Many people who have all the money they need struggle to create intimacy in their significant relationships.  There are couples who have planned a dream vacation only to return disillusioned because of the lack of intimacy. Accumulated assets become an albatross for relationships who function without intimacy. Connecting from the heart to someone you love requires sacrificing what you want for the needs of your partner. However, sacrifice alone doesn’t work in building intimacy without consideration. As a 7th grader, it would have been helpful if my mom were less utilitarian and more considerate of my feelings and discomfort about wearing a dead man’s shoes.

Sometimes partners in a relationship become shortsighted about meeting their wants, needs, and expectations. What is lacking is consideration. You can build a case as to why your suggestions are efficient and advantageous for the relationship and family. Yet without care and consideration, you can miss an opportunity to build intimacy. Commitment and connection in a relationship requires calculating the position of your partner. When you do this well, intimacy deepens. Narrow-minded thinking kills intimacy. Building healthy relationships with partner, family and friends, depends upon self-sacrifice and mature consideration.  Rationale that promotes your advantageous position doesn’t cultivate intimacy.  Financial resources don’t make a difference. Some of the poorest people on earth experience the deepest relational intimacy. What does matter is cultivating sacrificial consideration. In your desire to deepen intimacy in significant relationship, make sure you don’t give your partner a dead man’s shoes.

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