Text: Vesa Kumpula
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
We were visiting my parents when my son called. He said a guy from the power company had come to switch off electricity. I told him to calm down and said I would call the power company and settle the matter.
I had not paid our electricity bill, but I said I would take care of the payment right away. We also needed to pay the company for switching the power on again. I did wonder in my mind why they decided to switch off the power, though only our children were at home.
Our family has had times when money has been really short. We never actually went hungry, which was a good thing, but we had to keep the purse strings tight.
Around that time, many miraculous things happened that helped us manage. There was a big storm that fell down trees on our yard. We had an insurance that covered the value of those trees sixfold, and we even ended upbkeeping the wood. At another time, my mother-in-law, who owned half of the farm after her husband’s death, gave us some of the money she had got by selling wood. We were taken care of.
The recession in the early 1990s was a difficult time. Many families were hard up financially. Therefore, collections were organized to help some families. People were of two minds about those collections. Some probably thought those people could have avoided the problems by acting differently. Some may have been reluctant to donate money they felt to be theirs. The people who were collecting donations were aware of our family’s “poverty”. We were not even asked if we would like to give something to the collection. But one of the collectors discreetly inquired about my opinion of these donations. I told him it was a good thing to help people in need. I also said I would like to give something myself.
We were building a house and had been granted a state-subsidized low-interest housing loan. There were times when we had problems paying back even that loan. I once called the municipal office to discuss the payback schedule. The person who took the call knew me. He asked me why I was ready to take care of other people’s business but left my own unattended. It was true that I had many public duties at that time, including the chairmanship of the village committee. That response from the official made me pause and think about what things should come first in my life.
My work duties included visits to many enterprises. The owner of one bakery knew I had a big family. Often, when I went to see him, he gave me a bag full of loaves. He even said I should call him if I encountered insurmountable financial problems. His helpfulness encouraged me to see our future in a brighter light.
Luckily, second-hand sales began to pop up in Finland at that time. We could get good second-hand clothes for a moderate price. My wife mostly bought clothes, while I bought shoes. At a second-hand store, I walked around looking down, because shoes were usually displayed at the floor level.
We were close to bankruptcy, but there was another miraculous stroke of luck: our bank had forgotten to renew our mortgage in time. They were one day late, and the loans we had taken from the bank were, in practice, left without collateral security for a day. We were therefor able to negotiate a suitable interest rate and payback schedule. Interest rates at that time were huge, up to 16%, and the new 1% interest on our loan was a real relief.
Then something unexpected happened again. A major change took place in the business sector, and we found a new line of business that was productive. We were then able to pay back our loans, and our financial situation improved even otherwise.
I have often thought about those hard times in retrospect and asked myself if we were unhappy then. But I have come to the conclusion that money does not bring happiness. We were enjoying normal family life even then, and the increasing wealth has not made us any happier. Though I must admit that while we were struggling with shortage of money, it was hard to be happy for others who were doing well. Although money does not bring happiness, it makes life easier.
The Book of Proverbs advises us to pray like this: ”Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” (Prov. 30:8.) I have sometimes pondered about that instruction. Those words include a great wisdom. Jesus, in His sermon on the mount, used birds to illustrate the care of God: ”Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt. 6:26.)
At the present, too, many people are worried about the price of electricity and the rising interest rates. There are also other financial worries. Yet, it is safe to remember that the Heavenly Father will take care of His children. Above all, we should remind ourselves about the greatest gift that we possess, the gift of faith in our hearts. That brings us the greatest happiness.
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