Have an Itch? Try Scratching
By Kay W. Camenisch
- As a child, all my needs were met. However, with six children in the family, I knew better than to ask for a handout to buy the latest fad or craze. The guiding question was, “Do you need it?” If I didn’t have a legitimate need, it was a waste of time and breath to ask.
As an adult, I decide how to spend my money. Sometimes I buy things just because I want them, but every time I do, I first consider the voice from childhood asking, “Do you need it?” Occasionally I do get home and wonder why I bought something, but that one question has saved a lot of unnecessary expense.
When I was a junior in college I really wanted a car. In those days, not many students had their own vehicles, but in the spring I would need transportation for practice teaching. Consequently, I began to entertain the idea of having my own wheels. The more I thought about it, the more enticing and logical the notion became.
I was aware that family finances were tight. I also knew that my three older siblings didn’t have cars while in college. I knew my parents weren’t likely to buy me a vehicle. But the idea wouldn’t die. If I hadn’t been dreaming about it so much, I’d never have broached the subject. But constant thoughts have a way of coming to the surface.
The perfect opportunity arrived while I was home for Christmas. The rest of the family wandered away. Daddy and I were alone in the living room. I knew better than to blurt out, “Can I have a car?” Instead, I sidled into the subject with, “I’ve really been itching for a car lately.”
Daddy’s response was gentle, but quick and sure all the same. He said, “That’s one itch you’re going to have to find a scratch for.”
Daddy spoke. It was settled. End of discussion. I knew it wouldn’t help to beg or press my point.
With a twelve-word response from my dad, I stopped entertaining the dream of owning a car. I didn’t even need to find a scratch—knowing it wasn’t an option took the itch away. In the spring, I was content to borrow a friend’s car to drive to practice teaching.
Times have changed. Way back then it was more common to live within your means. Today, spending seems to be determined by desires more than by finances available—and even less by real need.
Our economy is in a shambles because people and businesses have spent money they didn’t have, running up credit card debts and mortgage commitments that exceed income. Some of our largest financial institutions have encouraged extravagant spending—all while overextending themselves. Even the government is spending without regard to how much money is in the coffer. In all sectors it seems we feel deprived if we can’t have everything we want.
I wonder if the secret to turning our economy around could be to start scratching. When we start itching for something we can’t afford, maybe we need to find a scratch for it. After all, scratching doesn’t weigh us down with debts that haunt—or drown—us later.
Another key may be to teach our children to scratch. I’m so grateful my parents taught me to make purchases based on needs rather than desires. I’m glad they didn’t buy me treats me every time I went out. They also taught me to accept their decision when they said, “No.” That helped me adjust to disappointments and move on. Because I didn’t expect to have every desire filled, I learned to be content.
We tend to measure success by the things we have. I still don’t get everything I want, so I’m grateful that my parents taught me to scratch when I’m itching for something. Unlike a car, that gift has lasted a lifetime.
It also planted a seed of righteousness, for “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim 6:6-8 NIV).
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Kay W. Camenisch is the author of Uprooting Anger: Destroying the Monster Within. She has been published in The Upper Room and The Lookout. Contemporary Drama has published one of her plays, and she is a regular contributor to a newspaper column. Send Kay your comments.
Kay is also a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother. She has worked closely in ministry with her husband, including in local churches, as missionaries in Brazil, working with a church school, training young adults to mentor troubled youth, and establishing and directing a ranch for troubled young men. Visit Kay's Web Site
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