Updated on 05.15.11

Overlooking the Free Things

Trent Hamm

This morning, I woke up and looked out my window to see the dawning sun peeking between the horizon and a cloud.

Last night, I turned off all the lights in the bathroom and took a warm shower, letting the lack of light and the extra heat remind me of the wonderful feeling in every part of my body.

Yesterday afternoon, I went on a long walk. I enjoyed the fresh air and the feeling in my body from the gentle exertion.

Yesterday morning, my one year old son woke me up in bed by tapping me on the cheek and saying “Dad” over and over again. When I opened my eyes and looked at him, he laughed and clapped his hands.

Two days ago, I spent an hour looking at an art book at the library with my five year old son and my three year old daughter. We looked at the works of impressionists, post-impressionists, and abstract impressionists while my son relaxed his head on my shoulder and my daughter pressed her face close to the book to see the details.

A few days ago, I sat on a park bench and listened to an amazing guitar player in the park, playing a few songs for his own enjoyment.

It is so easy in our busy lives to overlook the abundance of wonderful free experiences that life has to offer. The gentle beauty of nature. The amazing feelings generated by our own body when we exert it. The aromas available in a restaurant district. The warmth of companionship. The feel of warmth on your skin. The intellectual challenge of a book or a conversation. The look in a loved one’s eye.

Take today and spend some time enjoying the free things your life gives you. Take a walk outside instead of firing up the television. Turn off your cell phone and have a face-to-face conversation with your neighbor. Watch the sun set. Make yourself a meal that fills your house with wonderful aromas. Take a hot shower and feel the warmth on your skin. Turn on a radio to an oldies station, pull your wife into your arms, and dance with her for a while as you whisper in her ear how lovely she is today.

It is through the experience of the infinite beauty of the free things available in our lives that we can deeply appreciate what a dollar is and what you can use it for.

Me? I’d rather use that dollar to secure my ability to enjoy these things for the rest of my years than to seek out an item or an experience that just provides me with merely a fleeting rush of joy. There is so much more to be had from the sensation of a child holding your hand or the smell of freshly-grown grass than there is from almost anything I could throw my money at. Why not preserve those experiences and give yourself countless opportunities to enjoy them by being careful with your spending?

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  1. Vicky says:

    I wish you were my dad.

  2. graytham says:

    Lovely post, and I don’t mean to be a downer, but the water in your shower- plus the means to heat it- wasn’t free.

  3. Tanya says:

    Thank you – reading this post was so refreshing. My best friend and I enjoy walks through her neighborhood, which give us time to admire the area’s flowers in bloom and time for long conversations. It’s one of the best parts of my week.

  4. Mary says:

    Great post. I just walked my dog this morning and the weather was great. Warm, sunny 60 degrees.

    @graytham, #2 – It may not be free, but it feels great after a long stressful day. I’ll put more money towards something that can ease my mind, especially being someone who gets stressed over everything. Anything helps.

  5. Adam P says:

    “I turned off all the lights in the bathroom and took a warm shower, letting the lack of light and the extra heat remind me of the wonderful feeling in every part of my body.”

    Yowza. Every part of your body! Trent! This is a family blog ;-)

    I like this post, because I believe that you don’t need to be rich to have enough to make you happy and secure. It’s all about a mindset to be happy with what you have.

  6. Tracy says:

    I really like this post on the importance of just appreciating what’s beautiful in this life. I wish you hadn’t added the whole “Why not preserve those experiences and give yourself countless opportunities to enjoy them by being careful with your spending?” thing, because it doesn’t make any sense.

    Free stuff is still free even if you buy a latte!

  7. Amy says:

    Lovely post.

  8. Kirk Bond says:

    Not to nitpick, OK maybe it is nitpicking, but most of those things are not free. They just do not cost you more. What do I mean? You sat on a park bench, walked down a street, went to the library. All things that cost significant resources to create and maintain. Taxes cover them. They are great to take advantage of and I am thankful for them. But they do have a cost…

    Anyways I think you are right that we ought to take advantage of those things!!!

  9. Sarah says:

    Funny… by the title, I thought the post would be about self control – passing up the opportunities to take free stuff – in order to avoid having too much of that “junk” around the house! I can’t tell you how many sample-sized toothpastes I have – just because every time I go to the Dentist’s office the staff pushes them on me!

  10. Daina says:

    I like this post.

    BUT I’m taking my mom kayaking this weekend. We’ll pay to rent the kayak. It’s a late Mother’s Day present. We’ll also have strawberries and homemade ice cream.

    Usually we do something free — and really, really fun! We make the greatest memories. But this year, we’re paying money for it, and I am really looking forward to it.

  11. Andrew says:

    Great post–and all you nitpickers should just calm down, for once.

  12. valleycat1 says:

    Trent – as I recall this is the 3rd time you’ve mentioned your daughter pressing her face close to a book or peering hard to see all the details. Have you considered an eye exam for her?

  13. sylvia says:

    wonderful reminder to take advantage of what we have available to us. whether we pay to maintain the park, library etc or not, these are opportunities for us to relax and enjoy this beautiful world. i think it’s the stop and smell the roses plan, even if you paid for the roses, the bonemeal, and the water to grow them!! i have precious memories of my dad reading the paper with us on his lap because my mother insisted he have one on one time with us while she did the dishes every night. she liked the soothing part of doing dishes and he wanted to read the paper! we knew what Daily Gazette meant before we knew dr suess lol….i think he missed that time too when we got too old. so you are right to take the moments when you can.

    i love all your posts, this one really struck a chord.

  14. deRuiter says:

    I ride my bike and stop to pick up discarded aluminum beverage cans. It’s free fresh air, free exercise, free entertainment, keeps the roadside cleaner, is better for the American economy than mining bauxite and making new cans, is better for the environment because it takes only minimal energy to turn old cans into new. This free hobby even generates a bit of cash when the cans are sold for scrap. I know, I know, at one time I paid for the second hand bike, but by now the bike has paid for itself with transportation on errands which then did not require use of the car.

  15. Tina says:

    I found a wonderful free resource in my town this year. It is a free community garden. It is underwritten by the local university extension office. Anyone who wants one can get a plot to grow plants in. They even have nurseries that donate excess plants, so if you are not picky about what you grow you can garden for absolutely $0. I have spent a few dollars on plants and support items like tomato cages, but this is an extraordinary value that will save us a ton on groceries this summer. Plus I get the added benefits of almost daily exercise, meeting new friends, and a wealth of knowledge from more experienced gardeners. I’m sure other communities have resources like these so seek them out if you are interested. I’ve lived here 3 years and just found out about it.

  16. tentaculistic says:

    Bah humbug!

    Dudes, lighten up! Nitpickers, I swear…

    Trent, great post.

  17. Megan says:

    Trent, I love your reminders to slow down and enjoy our lives. We all have little things we love that can really make our lies better if we only pay attention to them.

    For me, right now, it’s a hot cup of tea and watching my cat survey the backyard from his kitchen window perch. He does this all the time, but I don’t always put my attention on it.

    Thanks for the article — there is beauty and meaning around us in every moment if we choose to focus on it.

  18. Lou says:

    Ah! “The days are long, but the years are short.” It’s great that you are enjoying prime time with your kids.

    My dad (father of 7) told me not to miss a minute with my only b/c, he said, “You are only at the center of their universe, and the focus of unconditional love, for those few early years.” There are great things about the older kids, but toddlers and pre-schoolers are a special, never to be repeated joy.

  19. Jaden says:

    I love this post.

    People being nit-picky here are missing the point- you ALREADY have the ability to enjoy these things, without spending more than what you’ve built into your budget. You’re not dipping into your spending money to be able to enjoy these wonderful, daily gifts.

    I get it. And I needed the reminder to embrace each day. So thank you. :)

  20. Justin says:

    Great stuff Trent. I know most of us get so wrapped up in work, planning our next vacation, the kids soccer practice, etc. that we forget to appreciate the little things (which are actually better for our health, relationships and wallet!)

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