Updated on 11.11.11

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #46

Trent Hamm

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

This past week, my oldest two children and I spent some time looking at public domain photos of different points in American history for an art project. Some of them really inspired me, so this week’s entry has quite a few of them.

1. Soldier’s Goodbye and Bobby the Cat (ca. 1939-1945) by Sam Horn
A friend of our family was recently deployed to Afghanistan, and at the same time, our son’s school is engaging in a “thank you” letter writing campaign to veterans of past wars. Because of that, the issue of people going off to war has been on our minds lately. This picture just grabbed us.

Soldier's goodbye & Bobbie the cat, ca. 1939-ca. 1945 / by Sam Hood

A beautiful image of love in a time of war.

2. P. T. Barnum on money’s value
What good is money if you don’t have anything that you otherwise value?

“Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience.” – P. T. Barnum

All money does is let you align your life with the things that you value. If you’re not doing that, then what value does it have?

3. Child in a swimsuit holding a basket of clams (ca. 1929-1932) by Vern Gorst
When we came across this picture, we started a long discussion about why this young child was working, carrying what looks to be a reasonably heavy basket of clams. This led us to a long conversation about how in some societies young children have to work to help out the family.

Child in a swimsuit holding a basket of clams, probably Washington State

We spent some time wondering about this child, particularly whether this child was working or was playing some sort of game with clam shells. What is this child’s world like? One can’t help but wonder.

4. Henry Ford on financial independence
Financial independence is the result of something else.

“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” – Henry Ford

If you work hard to build your knowledge, your experience, and your ability, you’re also building your independence.

5. Schoolchildren line up for free issue of soup and a slice of bread in the Depression (1934) by Sam Hood
Whenever I hear someone complaining about the sorry state of the economy, I think of pictures like this one, depicting people lining up in soup kitchen lines in the 1930s because there was simply no way for them to get food at home. Banks where people had their life savings vanished with all of their money. Unemployment reached 30% – and much higher in some areas. This picture inspired a long conversation with my oldest son about poverty.

Schoolchildren line up for free issue of soup and a slice of bread in the Depression, Belmore North Public School, Sydney, 2 August 1934 / Sam Hood

This picture inspires me because it reminds me that things can always be far worse than they are. We are all really pretty well off.

6. LooseCubes
There are times when it’s not convenient for me to work at home. When that happens, I try to work at the library, but that doesn’t always work out, either. Coffee shops can work, but if they’ve got a lot of people, those sometimes fail. A few times a year, I just need a cubicle somewhere for the day to just get some stuff done.

That’s exactly what LooseCubes helps with. It can tell you where you can find a desk somewhere to work without interruption. This site really helped during our Seattle trip when I had an emergency to deal with and needed a distraction-free place to work for a while. I left it bookmarked and recently found it again, realizing how useful it can really be for people who are self-employed.

7. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936) by Dorothea Lange
This picture is famous for a reason. The look on this woman’s face and the situation she found herself in as a post-Dust Bowl migrant with children is a painful one.

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California

My daughter looked at this for a long time and called the woman a “sad mommy” and wanted to know why the children weren’t trying to make her laugh. I gave her a hug and said, “I think they’re just hugging each other.” She put her arms around me and didn’t say anything for a while.

8. Andre Maurois on happiness and the past
Whenever I think about the past too much, I tend to feel melancholy. Similarly, whenever I feel melancholy, I tend to dwell on the past.

“The first recipe of happiness – avoid too lengthy meditations on the past.” – Andre Maurois

Today is a much brighter place than yesterday.

9. Thomas [in car] (ca. 1910 – 1915)
This last picture is a bit lighter in tone than the earlier ones. This led us to talk a lot about how much things change over a hundred years, from the car the man was driving to how he was dressed.

Thomas [in car] (LOC)

There are so many details that are so different today, yet the situation is also familiar. He’s a person enjoying a bit of freedom.

10. Jessi Arrington on the virtues of thrift stores
This is wonderfully spot on.

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  1. NMPatricia says:

    When you talk about discussing either a picture or an idea, are you talking with just your kids, or how do you have this conversation with peers?

  2. kc says:

    “We are all really pretty well off.”

    That’s an awfully broad statement. According the U.S. Census Bureau, 46 million Americans are living in poverty (this per the report issued in September of this year).

  3. valleycat1 says:

    I enjoyed the TED video, and appreciate the reminder that one should relax into being oneself and quit trying to fit in (if fitting in doesn’t match your personality). And I may just have to start searching for a pair of red pants!

    If I lived in Palm Springs or another large city or area with a lot of wealthy people, I’d probably do most of my shopping at thrift stores too. However, our small town is located in the poorest county in the state, so thrift stores are rare, and the major ones (Salv. Army, Goodwill) are full of wellworn used clothes from big box stores. It takes a LOT of time to dig through to the few decent items, and virtually impossible to find any one specific kind of item one might need at the time. There are times I’m up to the treasure hunt, but more often, not, since I have enough of a wardrobe that I’m usually trying to fill a specific hole in it, not just add something interesting.

  4. Johanna says:

    I am pretty sure we still have soup kitchens today. Make of that what you will.

  5. Johanna says:

    Also, throughout the 2000’s, weren’t the experts going on about how it was OK that people didn’t have any money in the bank, because they had plenty of wealth in the form of their home equity? Those people had their life savings vanish too.

  6. Steven says:

    Definitely wearing the rose-colored glasses on this post.

  7. Gretchen says:

    Underfunded soup kitchens, at that.

  8. Johanna says:

    Why is Bobby the Cat looking up that woman’s skirt?

  9. Elysian says:

    Even if you buy everything at thrift stores, buying a new clothes every week and donating them will get expensive. I get the point, but there’s something to be said for having a few good pieces that you wear out, too. Also, I would be fired if I wore that stuff to work.

  10. chuck says:

    whats that cat looking at. i got a much different reaction from that pic then you.

  11. Nancy says:

    College towns can be great sources for thrift stores, Goodwill, & Salvation Army. I’ve noticed the larger the college (30,000) the better the selection. When my girls come home to visit, we never go shopping at the mall, we head to the thrift stores in the big college town.

  12. David says:

    He isn’t looking up anything. He has his eyes tightly closed in pain, because the man is standing on his tail.

  13. deRuiter says:

    #2 KC, The figure 46 million is BEFORE figuring in the billions of welfare payments, section 8, WIC, Aid to dependent children, food stamps, and myriads of other ways our government redistributes money earned by workers. The figure of 46 million is used to justify taking more from the productive and giving more to the non productive. When the hoardes of giveaway government programs give all the aid to those in the poverty class, the figures are radically different, few live on the amount which denotes “poverty” when cushioned by government giveaways of taxpayer dollars. Also most American poor have cars, houses or apartments larger than the workers in Europe, washing machines, dryers, flatscreen color TVs, VCRs, Playstations, loads of toys. I see the Welfare mothers with their free cellphones plus their good cellphones, and their fancy salon done artificial finger nails with fancy paint jobs, and my heart DOESN’T bleed for America’s so called “poverty class.” America’s biggest problem isn’t hunger, look at Americans, the worst problem is most of America is overweight or obese.

  14. deRuiter says:

    10. Jessi Arrington on buying pre owed was fabulous. She left out other benefits, 1. getting finer quality than buying cheap new stuff, 2. contributing to a better balance of trade for America by not sending money for cheap new goods to our Chinese enemies.

  15. Kittie says:

    This series is one of my favorites. You always show me something moving and help me think out of the box. Thank you.

  16. Kate says:

    Looking at old photographs with kids and letting them formulate questions about the photos teaches them so much. I had to wonder if the photographer of the child with clams was along the same lines as Lewis Hines, who did so much to document the lives of working children. Clicking on the photo and doing some research on the photographer leads me to wonder if this was a promotional photo for the western coast.
    After recently spending time with my daughter in a Goodwill store where I purchased several blouses that I would never have paid the bucks for when they were new and that have garnered me many compliments, I especially enjoyed Jessi Arrington’s presentation. I wish I had the guts to wear her clothing combinations, because they are definitely fun.
    The lines at the soup kitchens these days are not so long because of the social programs that DeReuter decries. The growing numbers of children in poverty is rapidly growing and childhood obesity in this day and age is a symptom of that.

  17. kc says:


    My point is that not everyone in this country is “pretty well off.” If you don’t like the 46M figure, consider that 20M people in the U.S. live in “deep poverty” – their annual income ~$11K or less. I imagine they don’t feel they’re “pretty well off” – even if they are receiving welfare.

  18. Evita says:

    Jessi’s pretty purple dress is a dead ringer for something that I wore in the eighties. Quite frankly, it does not incite me to shop in thrift stores. I want current clothes, not a dated look!

  19. JuliB says:

    We do have invisible food lines – it’s called SNAP/EBT.

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