Archie, my grandfather, left school at the age of 14 between two world-ravaging wars and worked as a butcher’s boy to support his poor family. At the end of a back-breaking day for pennies, he loaded the basket on the front of his bicycle with discarded bones, which his mother would boil to make broth. Despite being deployed to South Africa, meeting his sweetheart and, through hard work and a sense of duty to his brood, creating a life of plenty in comparison, we would find him unashamedly picking the mould off old bread before spreading it with dripping and eating it with unbridled delight – a wartime snack for a wartime mentality.
Scratching for slim pickings
While ‘waste not, want not’ is commendable, Archie seldom spoiled himself, even when his wallet was full. He favoured offal – tripe, lights and tongue, God settle my stomach – because nothing edible should be squandered and those were his childhood staples. He would always be the boy from the slums of Northampton who did not have enough to eat.
He was also a profound thinker, a poetic soul and, despite his lack of education, an erudite man who read prolifically, wept softly to opera and made short work of the cryptic crossword. He had the heart and mind of an artist, but such highfalutin ideas were beyond his station. Archie knew his place and he did not budge.
Archie may have been bemused by my observations and proclaim that he had more than his heart desired but, to my mind, his fear of lack was not only about food. He saved for a rainy day – wise, yes – and worked in the same, safe job all his life rather than take a risk and grab what he deserved with its accompanying pay cheque. He diligently busied himself every second of the day – another admirable quality, until it exhausts you – because time, too, was always running out. He must have been so tired of scratching for slim pickings.
Archie’s scarcity mindset served him in practical ways but stifled his potential and shrank his horizons. He waited until he was old and drove hesitantly before he bought the car of his dreams, a golden Mercedes that he polished lovingly every week until it shone. And he never returned to his beloved England to see his family because that would have been an indulgence. None of this is criticism of my giving patriarch, but I wish he had taken more for himself. He thought that others would suffer in the wake of his joy, fulfilment or rest.
His legacy lives on in positive ways, but I aim to change the pattern in others. I too am a girl who was told to count the sheets of toilet paper I used and got more Marmite than cheese in packed lunches. My long-suffering children know that I will base a meal around a browning bunch of parsley and I proudly repurpose leftovers that everyone wishes I’d binned three days ago. I despise waste and woe betide the child who leaves the tap running or the light on!
The benefits of an abundance mindset
But, less literally speaking and discounting poverty, I know that blindly assuming there is not a plethora of happiness, love and success for you in life is akin to putting glue on the soles of your shoes and dousing the flame of your creativity and aspirations. When we believe there are plenty of wonderful things for us all to share, and that the universe wants to bestow us with gifts, we develop, nurture ourselves and attract what we desire. This is an abundance mindset and studies show that it even lengthens our lives.* We should have respite after a tough week, buy an affordable treat and aim for that star, because it’s twinkling just for us.
On the flip side of this story, Archie taught me something else, and I think he knew this part all along: When you are, even while striving, thankful for what you do have, from the thinnest smear of dripping to the gleam on your tawny car, you realise that you already have many joyous things, and this dual mindset – gratitude and faith in abundance – has the power to bring you so much more, if you’ll only open your mind.