Reassess What Constitutes Value in Your Life

Physician's Money Digest, August 2006, Volume 13, Issue 8

It's obvious that you have to paymore for something of greatvalue. A quality item—somethingthat is rare, beautiful, universallyadmired—is worth spending a lotof money on, right? Not necessarily. Insome cases, it seems that you actuallypay less for value. I learned this recentlywhile spending time with a short,25-inch-high, acquaintance of mine—my grandson:

As I—was setting up my state-of-the-artsound system, marveling at the deepbass and the way it fills the room withheavenly melodies,

He—noticed that if you throw anempty coke can down a tiled hallway, itmakes an interesting, loud noise. Heexperimented with various throwingtechniques: underhand, overhand, kicking,etc. He enlisted a second and then athird can. He found that three cansmade a most interesting sound. To himit was a symphony. As I struggled to getsomeone else's artistic achievement toplay on someone else's electronicmachinery, he spent hours making andenjoying his own kind of music.

As I—admired the sleek design, thefancy dashboard, and the smooth accelerationof my new, expensive car,

He—was stunned to discover that hecould stand upright by himself, and byalternatively moving one foot in front ofthe other, he could transport himselfacross the room. He squeals withdelight. He's having more fun doing 0.1mph than I ever had at 80 mph!

As I—snapped stunning beach vistaswith my $800 camera, preparingto use my $2000 computer and AdobePhotoshop to create an informativeand entertaining presentation to impressfriends and family,

He—picked up a single shell, staredat it intently, turned it over and over inhis little hands, fingered the intricatesurface, banged it against other shells,and lined up the shells in a row. Heimmersed himself in the beauty of thisnatural, everyday object in a way that Inever did with my photographs.

As I watch this budding younggenius (after all, he is my grandson) discovering,for the first time, the amazingworld in which he lives, I am profoundlyaffected by the experience. His enthusiasmfor discovery and for the beautyof simple everyday things is contagious.My understanding of what constitutesvalue changed. When I'm with him myentire worldview is, in fact, changed.

Now, as we go for a walk in thewoods, I notice a squirrel in the foliage.I call my grandson's attention to the littleanimal, and his face lights up. Hepoints to the squirrel, and starts "talking" to it. He's right—squirrels are funand interesting!

As I read him his bedtime story, Ipoint out the different details in the pictures.He watches intently, listening tomy every word. "Look at that little boypetting his dog. He loves his dog. I loveyou!" He is happy, and goes to sleepwith a smile on his face.

These experiences cost little or noneof the traditional currency that we customarilyuse to assign value to things.Yet their value is certainly great. Wetend to pass by such things as we raceto accumulate our fancy possessions.Somewhere along the line, we stoppedvaluing, stopped appreciating, andstopped looking at the ordinary facetsof our lives. If they didn't have monetaryvalue assigned to them, they didn'thave value at all. The equation wassimple: the more money, the morevalue. Yet, I now understand thatobtaining value in our lives needn'trequire expenditures of money, butrequires only the ability to see it. Thequestion is: Can you see it?

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physicianin Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of theSaginaw County Medical Society Bulletinand Michigan Family Practice. He welcomesquestions or comments at 3350 ShattuckRoad, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or louisconstan@hotmail.com.