Spending Is Living

The parable of the rich fool makes me think of myself, foolishly storing up the wrong kind of treasures, and it makes me think of my youngest son Take, spelled T A K E, short for Takeo.

I named him Takeo for two reasons. First, it was my younger brother’s name, who always seemed more aggressive and calculating than me. Second, Takeo was a name that suggested the hardness of bamboo. I thought, at that stage of my life, that I wanted my son to be tough but flexible, the way I thought I was not and the way I knew bamboo was.

One day on the beach at Waikiki, as the song goes, an elderly couple walked by. They looked at three year- old Take and offered us a million dollars for him. They were serious. We refused, of course, and kept our “bamboo kid.”

Take was a special child. At an early age, he had the ability to notice things about people, little things they had done to their hair or the way they dressed. Any change they made, he would comment on, positively. The women especially loved him for this attentiveness.

My wife could walk in with a new haircut, and I would be oblivious to it. Then I’d hear three or four year old Take say something like “Your hair is pretty, Mom.” Why couldn’t I learn to do that? Then, beaming, Joan would ask, “What do you think, honey?” And I’d say, “I love it.” But it never had the same impact.

Take, at a young age, was naturally responsive to the important people around him. One day, when he was a year or two older, he came up to me and asked me for money. I looked at the tyke and said, “You little shrimp, what do you need money for?” And he said to me, “Spending is living.”

I was so amazed. Spending is living? I moaned aloud. I said, “I have lost my child to the world of commercial television! There is nothing we can do to save our children!” Spending is living…Yuck! I was thinking, How do I teach this little kid the value of the almighty buck!

But on more recent reading of the parable of the rich fool I have revised my vision of myself back then and my vision of my son Take at that early age when he was teaching me so much.

Take wanted the money to buy things for his mom and me and for his brother and sisters. He spent hours shopping, hours thinking about the little things about us he took the time to notice. He gave to us the neatest gifts.

When you received something from him, you knew he had thought about you, and not about himself. So for little Take, whose name when first encountered by other kids was pronounced “take,” as in “Go ahead and take one,” spending was living. He was rich toward those who were important to him. He saw the goodness in others, their hopes and aspirations, and he brought gifts to that goodness. His actions brought the shape of his faith into the world around him.

I have learned a lot from my youngest son, who’s now a grown man. He taught me lessons I had to painfully learn: how to relate meaningfully to others, especially to those nearest and dearest to me, especially on Mother’s day.