Friday, December 22, 2006

An Old Short Story as an Allegory

I remember reading a short story back when I was in college many years ago about a woman who borrowed a necklace from a friend for a ball that she was to be attending later that evening. For all intents and purposes, the story goes, the necklace sparkled and appeared to be made of flawless diamonds. So, the friend lent the lady her necklace with the promise that it would be returned after the party. Somehow, when the lady got home, she noticed that she had lost the necklace.

Unwilling to admit to her friend that she had lost the necklace, she went to a jewelry store and bought a replacement necklace that looked just like the one she had borrowed. The necklace was very expensive. In fact, it was too expensive for her to buy with her meager savings. So she went and borrowed the money from several lenders, many of whom charged her usurious interest rates.

To pay for the money she had borrowed, she worked extra jobs, haggled on every purchase she made and had a hard time making friends due to her miserliness. She never married. She had grown wrinkly and gray quickly in life.

About twenty years later, she saw her old friend again. Her friend still looked young and beautiful, and had lived a life relatively free of worry. She told her friend about how she had lost the necklace, but had gone and replaced it with a new diamond necklace that was exactly like her friend's that she had lost. She told her how she had to borrow the money and had spent her life working the extra jobs and haggling to pay back the debts -- growing old before her time.

Her friend replied: "Why, you didn't have to do that! That necklace was just cheap costume jewelry."

It was a sad story. The woman had overpaid for the replacement of the necklace she had lost. She had borrowed excessively to pay for an object because she didn't understand its real value.

As I think about this story, I think about all of the people who overpaid for houses or who were steered into loans at interest rates that are far above what are warranted that will grow old before their time. They will have to work extra jobs, haggle on all their purchases and work to pay off debts that are more than they should have -- all because they didn't know that the house that they bought wasn't really worth what they thought they were.

Many times, the value that was placed on their home was based on many fraudulent appraisals. Some of it will be based on foolish speculation and mania. In the end, however, there will be a large segment of the population that will suffer the loss of enjoyment of life because they will be tied to the debt they incurred trying to buy a diamond house when the costume jewelry house will do just fine.

Don't feel less of yourself if you are wearing the cheap imitation jewelry to the party of life. When tomorrow comes, no one will really care whether you wore real diamonds or cheap imitations. The people who pay more attention to the ornaments you are wearing than the delight of your company, friendship and conversation have misplaced priorities anyway.


Anonymous said...

This is a great one, and I am afraid it speaks directly to the misplaced values running amok in our country--greed, refusal to care about the next generation, "I gotmine", etc. etc.

charles smith

teripittman said...

I've been hanging around TheCompact yahoogroup. They have a compact not to buy anything new (with some exceptions) for a full year. Some woman wrote in asking for help for those who shop for entertainment. It's really quite sad. Don't they understand that things don't truly bring you happiness? Before we moved, I happened to take a look at a journal I'd written back in the early 70s, when we were truly broke. I didn't read any of the whining about my job or the amount of money that I made, which seems to fill up my journals from around 2000. I just talked about visiting friends. So now, I no longer worry so much about the job or how easy it will be to make ends meet. I focus on our community and friends instead. A true friend would have forgiven the loss of that necklace, even if it were valuable.

Ye ole conservative blogger said...

Perhaps the money your parents spent geting you thru school was not wasted. What a great piece of logical thinking. You remind me of the young turks that took control of the house for the GOP and are sharing the senate. Liberal or conservative we must return to a values based society. After 7 decades 5 in the media I am ready to pass the torch of opinionating.