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People, not things

Facebook can waste a ton of your valuable time with Cat Fail videos, but every once in a blue moon, a gem will cross a “newsfeed”. Last week, the final thoughts of a rich man shook me to my core. The alleged final words were exactly what I have been preaching to my kids: “People, not things.” The man had, in his life, achieved the epitome of success, but in the end, his non-stop pursuit of wealth and ‘things’ left him feeling bankrupt in some key relationships.

Mansions, Lamborghinis, and yachts are great but if you treat people around you poorly, or don’t have friendships or a family with whom to share life, then your life can be seen as very poor. 

Prosperous people are ones who are rich in relationships and authenticity. So sad are the millionaires who die alone.  

My kids have developed a genuine fixation with ‘things’. iPods, phones, the latest Nerf guns, newest ‘rare’ Shopkins, Xboxes, and so on. Before any eye rolls, I do realize this preoccupation with the latest things is normal, and kids have always been this way (and marketed to this way).   

However, I become furious when dinner table talk is focused solely on things, and the insatiable need to have more. Yesterday, we stumbled on the question of what we’d do if our house was burning down. I told the kids that if it ever happened, I would make sure everyone was out, and then would sit and watch.   

Kids in chorus: “But what about your hockey cards Dad? Your computer? Dr. Seuss collection? Your CDs?”

Me: “What about them?”

Kids in shock: “Wouldn’t you be sad to lose all your stuff?”

Me: “Sure I would be sad, but it’s just stuff. It can be replaced, but you can’t be replaced!”  

I’m certain most parents, at some point, have had similar conversations. In desperate attempts to get our children to start thinking of other people not things, we have had Food Bank and SPCA inspired birthday parties in which party invitees are encouraged to bring a gift for the cause NOT toys. These parties have been briefly successful in shifting focus (and the last thing this house needs is 20 more plastic disposable toys), but dropping in to the food bank or soup kitchen once a year is not enough to make permanent change.  

As Christmas rolls around, I find myself struggling and raging against the commercialized Christmas machine. In previous years, we have taken the UNICEF catalogue and funded goats, shelters, and other necessities for faraway villages, but to what avail? Kids still whine for more junk, which causes my Scrooge meter to skyrocket.  

Society is fascinated with money and wealth, and material things will always be a part of our lives, these are basic facts. But as a parent, I need to tip the scale back to the people side. One dad told me he is careful what he highlights to kids on a drive around their neighbourhood. Rather than pointing out big mansions and expensive cars, he looks for kids playing, or better yet, generations of families playing together. 

I am now telling my kids, “Put down your iPod. The only screen time and Facetime I want you to have is your face at your friend’s screen door, knocking and asking them to come out and play!”

Deathbed heartaches and regrets should not be a reality for anyone. What can we/society do to help our children and teens realize that people, love, and relationships make you happy, not things?    

I would love your ideas. I know there are many families winning the “People vs. Things” battle. How do you do it? Please let me know – [email protected]

Until next time. . . .



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About the Author

Jeff Hay is a Kelowna-based writer, motivational speaker, parenting coach, and father of four.

Along with writing for Castanet, Jeff also writes for the Huffington Post, the Good Men Project, and the National Fatherhood Initiative in the United States. 

When he is not playing his favourite role of 'DAD', Jeff speaks throughout Canada as a popular parenting educator, working on his website – www.thedadvibe.com, and writing his parenting book for dads, “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!

Jeff dedicates his life to improving the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

E-mail Jeff your thoughts or questions anytime at [email protected]

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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