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Some serious stuff

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

I will admit that I would not have paid attention to this column when I was 18 or so, but perhaps the 18-year-olds today are smarter than I was. Older readers, don’t be dismissive, keep reading, there are serious issues here for you, too.

When I was 18, like many of that age, I wanted the modern toys. That meant having a good job, which meant going to college. I did it and joined the rat race. Now, you don’t know you are joining the rat race, it kind of sneaks up on you until you are caught. It is like drugs.

More prestigious jobs, fancier cars, bigger houses, fantastic vacations, I have done them all. Many of the cars are long since in the junkyard, houses have been purchased by others, and all the airplane and theater tickets are old and musty.

Countless thousands of dollars have been paid in interest to borrow money for purchases that were not needed. It is something like what Dave Ramsey says, “Why did you borrow money to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t know?” (If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, look him up).

Even if you are only in your mid-20s, consider the things you have already bought that are on the trash heap, worthless. Resolve to change your purchasing decisions in the future, for it is your purchasing decisions that entrap you.

If you are in your midlife years, consider the discarded items in your house and on the grounds of the place you live (even if you rent and the property is not in your personal care). Have a major cleanup and get rid of all that useless stuff.

I’ll paraphrase what my best friend, a very effective manager, says when he assumes the role of managing a paper mill. Look at everything, and if you are not going to use it in the next month (except seasonal decorations which he would have you organize, or, in the case of farming, seasonal implements), get rid of it.

Your weekly trash cans (or wherever you dump your trash) should be full every week until this is done. Be relentless. And this is a selfish act. You are doing it for yourself to make yourself feel better and have a better attitude. You deserve to live in a trash-free and litter-free place, no matter how humble. And if you don’t have that high of an opinion of yourself, think of your kids and do it for them.

If you are living on a low income this does not mean you have to live in squalor. Squalor is a personal choice.

Starting next week, start giving some of your income away to those less fortunate than you. I don’t care, in this specific sense, if you are a Christian or not, but find some way to help others. This will also make you feel better about yourself. As an example, since gasoline has gone up, I’ve taken to slipping a bill (you know, the kind Uncle Sam prints) between the pump handle and the gas pump after I fill up. Makes me feel good that I am anonymously helping someone have a better day. Again, it can be considered selfish – it makes me feel better about myself.

Ironically, I wrote this column before receiving a letter from a friend, telling me he had just attended a funeral in a distant state for a young person who had apparently decided in their late teen years to try all the world has to offer. Your life may not be tragically cut short as this person’s was, but if you have been following the siren song of more, more, more, perhaps you can be smarter than me and cut the “more” habit short earlier in life.

Postscript: I wrote this column from a secular point of view, but let me tell you, in my case a lifetime of Christianity is involved. And I’ll hasten to say, sometimes I have been on the narrow path and sometimes I have not – but every day, I’ve learned. My hope is you are a faster learner than me!

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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