Money is time
Bruce Lee said, “Time is what life is made of.” Nelson Mandela said, “Time is always ripe to do right.” Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Time is money.”
I flip that last one. I flip it because years ago a coworker at a furniture plant taught me to see it the other way around. Money is time.
She was a beautiful woman in her early thirties. She was a preacher’s wife and a proud mother of three kids. Her eyes lit up when she talked about her family. She glowed.
She was a cookie-cutter, walking stereotype of a “soccer mom” in a minivan. The only problem was she didn’t like the van.
She wanted a new one forever. She talked and talked about with her husband. He told her there was no way they could afford a brand-new minivan. But she begged and begged – “I have to have it my way,” she said.
Eventually he gave in.
She was tickled to death, of course, but the new wore off quickly. Soon her new van was just her van. The big payments didn’t change, though, and soon it was clear she’d have to go to work.
Every morning she pulled into the factory parking lot to work another 10-hour shift in the van she now hated.
“I don’t get to stay home with my kids,” she told me. “I don’t even get to pick them up from school.”
She had it down to the time it cost her: 31 hours. She had to work 40 with the rest of us, but to make the payment, it took 31 hours of her life each week.
“So think about time when you’re going to buy something. Think about how many hours of working it’s going to take to pay for it.
“You want a hundred-dollar stereo, and you bring home 10 bucks an hour? Ask yourself if you’d give up a day of your life for that stereo. You want a minivan? Ask yourself if you’d give up three years of your life for it. Because I wouldn’t, but I didn’t know to ask.”
I can still see her next to me in a gray sweatshirt saying that while she ran a drill press. I still think of it almost anytime I make a big purchase.
I left the furniture plant shortly after hearing that, and while I remember her words, I can’t remember her name. So I don’t know the end of this story, but I hope she’s somewhere appreciating her life. I hope she got back to spending her time with her kids instead of headboards.
Most of all, I hope the van still runs.
Will Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville.