The squirrels have been busy around our place, although I don’t actually recall an actual sighting of one recently. If I were guessing, they probably spend a good bit of their time at some nearby creek or other water source since our hill is dry as a stick of late. But the evidence of the little busy beasts is there nonetheless.
The other day I noticed a flurry of activity under one of our more significant hickory trees. I have seen and heard a squirrel in that particular tree in the past, and the evidence of one’s recent visit was on the ground. A collection of large hickory nuts, still in their fresh green outer shells, littered the ground. But especially in one little area, under the branch where Mr. Squirrel had been gorging himself above, laid a busy collection of nut hulls, picked clean.
One thing that really gained my curiosity though, was the fact that several of the nuts still in their green hulls had been slightly chewed on by the squirrel. Either the squirrel had been quite clumsy (and wasteful) and had lost some nuts from his grasp, or perhaps he had some sense as to whether those particular nuts were worth the effort of sharpening his teeth on. Upon further investigation I cracked one of the chewed-on nuts between a couple of rocks, and sure enough, the meat had not properly formed in the nut. I don’t know if the rest of the nuts were like that, but maybe God gave Mr. Squirrel a sixth sense to know how to tell what’s inside.
Squirrels are known for their ability to pack food away in various locations, which I suppose is where the term “squirrel away” found its origin. It’s been told that they hide nuts and seeds in a multitude of locations and rely on their memory to find them at a later time, especially in the winter months when fresh food is scarce. Try as they may though, many a tree likely gets planted each year because the squirrels can’t seem to locate all of their stash which they’ve buried in the ground.
With a houseful of children of all ages, my wife Katrina has been “squirreling away” a serious collection of clothing for all of them for several years. As we have moved through the ranks with each child’s growth, clothes have gotten handed down to the next little person in line as needed. We have been very blessed to have had many sources of good clothing, such as grandmas and friends at church, not to mention lots of trips to yard sales and consignment shops.
With all of the lessons we have taught the children in frugality by living our lifestyle of squirreling away in front of them, they have certainly picked up on a thing or two. On a trip to Chuck E. Cheese last year to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the kids had a blast playing all of the games and accumulating all of the tickets that they could trade in for prizes. Hannah, displaying the most wonderful act of sharing, said “If we don’t have enough tickets to get something by ourselves, maybe we can put all of our tickets together and get something good, like a set of those monster teeth. Then, we can all take turns using them.” Now that’s sharing, spit and all!
Another thing that we have taught the kids is that Mommy and Daddy generally will not snatch up candy and junk in the grocery store checkout line. This allows us to avoid that nasty scene that I’ve witnessed many times while watching other folks with their kids screaming for a candy bar. Our kids know better, so it never even fazes them.
One of the worst money magnets after escaping the checkout line is the pesky ride on toys that are near the entrance of many stores. Our kids count it a privilege if we let them pause for a few moments as we pass by just so they can sit on the pony or racecar, enjoying the ride and using their own sound effects. They are generally quite old before they come to a realization that if you put money in them, the car or pony will actually move and make the sounds for you.
No matter how hard we try to teach them though, letting them go so they can learn the hard way is inevitably necessary. When we pay them their allowance for the work they do, we encourage them to tithe and save, but they are always eager to go on a spending spree as well.
The other night, as we went to the mall, the kids brought a little of their own money, and we stood back and watched them in action. We were so proud to watch two of the girls pool their money, combining fifty cents to spend on a little horse merry-go-round. All five of the kids happily jumped on the three-horse machine and had the time of their lives for about sixty seconds. What a deal! Five for the price of one!
The kids left the mall that night with less money than they had arrived with, but hopefully the lessons they learned was of greater value than their loss of money. They learned to share, they learned that the money we give them has a limited supply, and they learned that once it’s gone, we get in the van and go home. Hopefully all of our little “squirrels” will eventually get it as we prepare to launch them out into this big world.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8 NIV
Written by David Steen, with God smiling, October 9-11, 2010.