Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Remembering Faith Elizabeth

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Money Isn't Real

One of my favorite movies is "Blow." It's a true story of George Jung (played by the fabulous Johnny Depp), who became part of the Pablo Escobar drug cartels and was largely responsible for smuggling cocaine into the U.S. in the 60s and 70s. Now, obviously, this isn't a "feel-good" kind of movie...but it's intriguing and Johnny Depp is at his best.

My very favorite scene in the whole movie is in the opening few minutes when George, as a young boy, is talking to his father, played by the amazing Ray Liota. His father's self-made business has just gone under and they are in a precarious financial position, teetering on bankruptcy. George is expressing concern over the fact that they are out of money and how his prissy, high-maintenance mother will take this news. Without missing a beat, his father looks at him and says, "Money isn't real, George. It just seems like it is."

This has become my new favorite one liner..."Money isn't real." Because, it isn't.

Coincidentally, Jamie and I just recently watched the newly released HBO film, "Too Big to Fail," about the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing bailout of AIG by the federal government. It was fascinating how our government and our society placed so much blind faith in Wall Street. CEOs that were taking home millions of dollars in bonuses each year and even just the "peons" that were bringing home six figure salaries. Listening to the numbers they were throwing out was mind boggling...and frightening. As Jamie said, "There is no one on this planet, no job, that is worth tens of millions of dollars a year." Agreed. And how sad is it that our financial "gurus" make exponentially more than our congressmen, senators, and even our president? Or our soldiers? Or the police and firefighters that risk their lives to protect us? What is wrong with our society that this is how we prioritize? No matter what you think of the government, it says something about how we value these roles when the President of our country makes significantly less than the president of a bank.

Watching the movie, there was a human part of me that had a small amount of compassion for these people who were watching their entire lives crumble beneath them. But, the bigger part of me that looked at Jamie and said, "Money isn't real."

I watched the story of these CEOs and bank higher-ups whose lives collapsed under their feet, I kind of thought it was a good lesson. Their whole lives were built upon a falsehood that having millions of dollars, multiple homes, fancy cars, and expensive clothes bought them security and made them infallible...that they were better than the rest of us because they could buy things the rest of us can't even imagine being able to afford.

Now, I will readily admit that having money certainly makes life a little easier and less stressful. But, I can't even imagine what it would be like to be able to buy whatever we want whenever we want, without thinking about how we'll pay for it. And though I would love to win the lottery, I don't want to lose the values that we have now...the values that make us think about what we're purchasing, how we're going to pay for it, and where the money is coming from. Those values have taught us that we have to work for and earn the things we have...and that we aren't immune from the ups and downs of life. We save money so that we don't have to worry about "what if?" We've had times where we were more flush and had a lot more discretionary income, and we've had times where we're squeaking by, paycheck to paycheck. And guess what I've discovered?

Money isn't just seems like it is.

Because no matter how much or how little money we've had in our lives - and even going back to my childhood - I don't think about the "richer" times as the "happier" times. The happiest times have been almost the opposite in a way...camping trips in the mountains as a kid, fishing trips as an adult with my husband. Sitting in a whirlpool tub in a cheap bed and breakfast, drinking a $10 bottle of wine, bike riding in our neighborhood parks, watching fireworks on the 4th of July at my in-laws, drinking cheap wine on the patio at Marc and Sarah's. None of this required a big house, or a big boat, or shoes that cost more than my house payment. Nor should they...what IS real are relationships and the values you carry in this life.

And none of the thing that matter can be bought...and none will collapse with the failure of Wall Street.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Last Day

So, we have finally finished another year of school. 12 years of "last days" are behind me...and a lot more are in front of me. I feel more like a veteran teacher than a young teacher, as I was so reminded tonight by a young man working at the restaurant where some teachers and I were enjoying happy hour.

"Hi, Miss Ezell. How are you?"

I turned my head, responding to my maiden name, to see a very nice looking young man in glasses. After what I hope was a discreet look at his nametag, I made the connection...he was a former student. And for the record, the second I knew his name, I knew him. Now, a high school graduate, getting ready to attend college in the fall and bussing table in the meantime. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I proceeded to walk back to the other end of our table and announce, "I feel old."

I remember this young man well. He was sweet, quiet, well behaved and hard working. On our fifth grade camp overnight that year, he was amongst a group of students who wandered away from their counselor and spent a few very scary minutes "lost" in the woods where we were camping. Upon being found and finally sitting to eat breakfast, he was one of the kids that sat at the breakfast table, relieved to be "found" - and promptly burst into tears. He had been terrified and it showed. I remember hugging him and trying to reassure him that he was okay. At 10 years old, he was very much a little boy that morning.

Today, it was not a little boy in front of me, but a young man who clearly stayed on the path he'd always been on - with a future in mind. It was a beautiful way to end this 12th year of teaching - to be reminded of the past. To have a student remember you and talk to you so many years later has a way of reminding you what you teach for. Some days we really need that reminder.

And so, another year is behind me. I remember a good friend years ago telling me that one of her favorite parts of teaching was knowing that, at the end of every year and the beginning of another, was a chance at a "do-over." In teaching, we have a unique opportunity to correct our mistakes and do a better job than we did before. Sometimes you feel like all you are doing is making mistakes, so seeing a student almost a decade later can serve as a great reminder that not everything is worthy of a do-over. Sometimes, just once in awhile, we get it right on the first try.