Monday, January 19, 2009

Thrift as a Strategy for Pleasure?

"She was an old-fashioned housewife: determined and skillful and saving and sparing. She worked hard, provided much, bought little, and saved everything that might be of use, buttons and buckles and rags and string and paper sacks from the store. She mended leaky pans, patched clothes, and darned socks. She used the end of a turkey's wing as a broom to sweep around the stove."
~~Quote from Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

When I came across this paragraph in my reading, I had to chuckle. I could so perfectly picture my Grandma and her turkey wing. She was a farm wife, too, from the same era as Hannah Coulter and she deserves some respect! Since January 17-24th is National Thrift Week, and since country's economic health is seriously compromised, what better time to pull out that old-fashioned word "thrift"?

The words "thrifty" and "frugal" can both be traced to root words that suggest healthy growth. "Thrift" is related to "thrive" as in a thriving plant; and "frugal" has a Latin root that is equivalent to "fruitful". Both words have very positive connotations and yet to many (maybe most) people they conjure up mental pictures of boring old misers.

Ben Franklin, the historical character who epitomizes the idea of thrift, insisted that being thrifty was a strategy for pleasure. Yes, pleasure!

Always a public servant, Ben Franklin's economizing enabled him to be a generous giver. Giving to others is indeed one of the great secrets of happiness. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

We are centering our women's retreat around the Proverbs 31 woman this year~~ a woman who epitomizes the qualities of generosity, economy, industry, and resourcefulness. I am excited to hear from some of the older women on these issues and to glean from their life experiences.

The thrifty housewife described in my beginning quote may have fallen out of fashion, but the principles by which she lived her life are timeless. It's time to bring her back into view, emulate her, and pass her virtuous character on to a new generation.

For more on this subject, read David Blankenship's excellent article on the "American Apostle of Thrift" here.


Anonymous said...

What a great way to look at thrift! I tend to think of it as "oh, I have no money so I have to be cheap" rather than looking at my finds, and my lack of spending as "pleasure". This challenges me to change my attitude.

Willa said...

That is so very interesting! I've noticed that some of the most creative and satisfying times in my life have come when we didn't have much $$$ to spare and had to make do or do without. This post helps me understand why. I love the etymological connections.

Mark said...

I was researching the Greek word "poiema" because I am preaching Eph 2:1-10 Sunday. What a marvelous thought that we are God's work of art!

Poiema said...

Mark~ Psalm 139:13 also says we are"woven", referring to fine embroidery work. The idea that we are his work of art is fascinating to me.
Thanks for stopping by!

Poiema said...

Take a look at Dana's thrifty comments here: