The Choices You Make, The Dollars You Make

After a weekend completely off of the internet and off of writing, I had some serious catch-up to do yesterday afternoon here at The Simple Dollar. I take this site pretty seriously as a hobby / side business, particularly as we move into a new house, and I want to consistently write high quality entries, and that takes time and focus.

As I was just settling in to get some writing done, my nineteen month old son woke up from his nap and announced loudly that he wanted to go to the park. I tried to focus, but he kept grabbing my hand, pointing at the door, and saying “Park! Park! Slide!” It didn’t take long for me to relent, put my laptop away, and take my son to the park. It came down to a choice between effectively putting in more work to earn money or spending quality time with my son, and without much question, I chose to spend time with my son.

Why did I make that choice? To put it simply, no amount of money that I could ever earn from The Simple Dollar or any other endeavor will ever be able to buy back my son’s toddler years. Even now, I sometimes miss his infant days, when he would just cuddle in my arms for hours, and I know how fleeting it is. He’s already a little boy, and there’s no turning back the clock to being an infant – that time has passed, and the good memories I have of those times will remain just that, good memories.

Now he’s a toddler, and he loves going to the park and climbing on the small child playset and going down the slide. Right now, he’s too timid to go down the slide by himself, so he can make it up to the top there, but he sits down at the top of the slide and reaches for me. I stand to the side, reach up to him, and he grabs my hand tightly and holds it as he goes down the slide. It won’t be very long at all before he won’t need me to go down the slide – he’ll do it by himself – and then that time will be gone forever and no amount of money will ever bring it back.

Time after time, choices present themselves in your life where you can either make some money or you can do something that is in line with the central values in your life, an opportunity that might not come around again. Take the opportunity every time and leave the money on the table. That’s perhaps shocking advice from a personal finance site, but I mean it more sincerely than perhaps anything I have ever written here.

Yesterday, I could have invested a few hours writing a few stellar pieces for this site that might have picked up a few more readers, or I could have gone to the park with my son. Maybe my choice means that I won’t be able to post a great piece today, but the opportunity to stand there and be able to take my son’s hand as he reaches out for it to go down the slide, that’s worth more to me than the greatest piece of writing that my spirit could ever produce.

As he grows older, my son will probably not remember this day specifically, but he will remember the fact that I consistently made very similar choices, and it will profoundly change him as a person. He’ll be more secure in who he is, feel safer and happier at home, and will have more courage as a person to make wonderful choices in life. With my values, that’s the greatest investment I can make.

With your values, maybe it’s something different, like working on environmental causes or working at a women’s shelter. One individual session might not make a difference, but realizing that fundamental value and making the right choice to reflect that value over and over again will make all the difference in the world. Never, ever let the need to earn some extra money get in the way of that, because it won’t be the extra $20 you remember when you look back on your life, it will be the choice you made to help someone else.

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