Last night I made a late night run to the grocery store. As I got out of my car, I noticed a woman walking around the lot looking at the ground. She had her hand cupped as if she were holding something. By the time I exited the store, she had worked her way across the parking lot to the store entrance. In her hand, I saw five slightly smoked cigarettes.
I watched her continue her search as I got into my vehicle. It took me a few minutes to realize what she was doing. She was looking for cigarettes that had been partially smoked and discarded. I assume that she would take them home and finish smoking them.
While I admire her frugality, it was a sorry sight. She was going through great pains to save money on something that was detrimental in the first place. No matter how much money she saves on cigarettes, this activity brings a negative value to her life.
As I drove away, I wondered about my own life. Are there any activities I am trying to streamline that bring negative value — no matter how efficiently they are performed? It isn’t enough to be busy. It isn’t enough to be efficient. You have to work on the right things. It is better to work on important things slowly and inefficiently than to work on the wrong things with great speed.
I seriously doubt she was doing it to “save” money. More likely, she simply had no money and is addicted. I love how you parallel it to your own life, though, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll be thinking about for the next few days.
Your comparison is outstanding. I’m sure we all have these type of activities …it’s part of our living and we can’t just be perfect and do right things all the time.
Umm. The homeless and penniless have always sought refuge in tobacco and alcohol, and I’m sorry, but this is the real issue here. OK we can take some trite middle class lesson from it here if we must, but perhaps what we should learn is that while we are contemplating our navels in the most productive manner, we can become oblivious to far greater problems around us. Then we could search for the areas of our own lives that are (morally? ) bankrupt. I never got a ‘social responsibility’ urge before, perhaps now the big 5 – 0 is approaching I’m starting to grow up?
(By the way, I didn’t mean this to be too critical – I can appreciate the pressure to blog something – anything – regularly. Keep it up, I couldn’t do it. There average quality is enough to keep me visiting regularly.)
Mark Shead says
@Stephen – The area where I live has a very high rate of welfare recipients. The sad thing is that when you really look at what is going on the things that hurt them the most in the long term are the things that are designed to help them in the short term. Actually helping them without doing more harm is a very difficult thing to do. Not that we shouldn’t try, but I see a lot of programs making things worse for people–not better.
Thanks for your comment.
@Damsel – I didn’t mean to imply that she was going to take the monetary value of the cigarettes she picked up and put it in a bank account. :)
Larry FSCC says
Wow what insight, thats a great money saving tip. Just smoke used cigarettes… You know I saw a man taking garbage from a trashcan the other day, there was uneaten food!! Think of the hundreds of dollars we could save a year by doing this!
@Mark – I was very impressed by your reflection on and example of a very wise principle. This principle is definitely something to be used and acted upon daily to improve our lives and get the most out of them.
It’s too bad that some posters have, obviously, stumbled onto the wrong forum for their views, however, laudable. Although, it’s important to strike a balance between keeping our focus not only on ourselves and our lives – but the lives of others, I believe that Productivity501 has as its goal to assist us in whatever goals we might have.
To illustrate, take the example of social responsibility. NOT using this principle, we could be busy setting tables to serve the homeless, assisting any that needed it in getting seated, giving them an encouraging talk, discussing ideas among ourselves for increasing space so that more could be served at a later date. BUT just as we could be congratulating ourselves on the speed that we accomplished all of these tasks and everyone had readied themselves to eat, we could be brought up short by the fact that we never ordered the food. In this case, as in others, doing the right thing at the right time can be crucial. Ordering the food to arrive the next day and arranging for the time it should arrive should have been the first task completed before the others were even considered.
So whatever we choose to do in life, I’m confident, that your writing this article to reinforce this principle was a very productive use of your time and reading this article was a very productive use of our time. Thanks again, Mark!