I've been cringing whenever I find myself running extra errands on the weekends. Why? My "Fun Bucks" seem to be going more and more into my gas tank. And that's not much fun.
Everyone I know, and most folks I don't know, seem to be saying the same thing:
"Gas is so expensive!"
People everywhere have been re-evaluating their budgets to adjust to the new economy. And, sadly, relationships are suffering.
Have you noticed that your social life may be running a little empty compared to what it was just a year ago? Think about it ... A year ago, a friend might have invited you to a movie or shopping, or even doing something "touristy," and at the drop of a hat, you zoomed away in your car and had a great time being together, even if you happened to lose your direction in the process.
Now it seems that choices about which friends and relatives to visit are even coming under more careful consideration. Face-time that was limited in the past seems to be even more so now. A colleague of mine recently was invited to two events on the same day, one locally for a long-time friend, and one 70 miles away for a close family member. Last year it would have been an easy decision to go be with family. But now, as much as it broke her heart, she simply couldn't afford to be with them. What changed?
"Gas is so expensive!"
For some, even church attendance is a decision driven by whether or not you can afford the fuel. The fellowship we need the most when times are tough is ironically out of reach for some because times are tough. And I'm sure that in many churches where attendance and offerings are down, we can point to gas prices as a contributing factor.
Here are some things that we can do to help our relationships with one another thrive despite the pain at the pump:
- Carpool together when you run mundane errands. Everyone has to go grocery shopping.
- Help each other out. That's what friends are for.
- Make spending time together a priority. The writer of Hebrews tells us, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another."
- Invite your friend and his/her family over to your place for dinner. If the table isn't big enough, spread out a blanket on the living room floor and have an indoor picnic. You don't have to serve anything fancy. Just be relaxed and have a good time.
- Visit your local park. Chances are, your community has one within a short walking distance of your home. Watch the kids play on the equipment. Let them roll down a small hill. Join them. Who says kids aren't the only ones that can have fun? Besides, your kids want your presence more than your presents.
- Take turns with your friends hosting a movie or game night at home. Board games are interactive, and you may even learn something new!
- Tell stories about different ways you have experienced God's love in your life, especially to younger generations.
Gas is about $2.00 more expensive this year than it was this time last year. Which sounds insurmountable for a lot of people, and maybe it is. But I look at it this way.
I fill up my car about once a week.I have a 16 gallon tank, which means I'm spending about $32 more a week than I was a year ago. How do I combat that? Last year, I ate out for lunch about every day, and on average spent about $5 - $6 each time. That's $24 - 30 a week. By brown bagging it, I've not only saved a good portion of that money, I also save that extra gas I was spending to go to get my lunch in the first place.
I'm fortunate - where I work has a nice grassy knoll in front of the building. I keep a chair and a blanket in my trunk. When the weather beckons me outside, I stretch out under the trees and read a book to eat my lunch. This not only is saving the bucks, it's getting me outside where I can really relax and refresh. That's something I really wasn't doing last year. Last year I was stressing because the line at the burger stand wasn't moving fast enough, it was cutting into my time to eat, would I make it back in time, etc. Now, my only worry is - will I fall asleep in the shade....
I know this isn't the case for everyone. Some people spend much more time commuting, and thus filling up the tank. But my point, I guess, is that when you rethink the game plan, and find ways to simplify - not only will you budget balancing out, you'll also find that all the trappings we feel we need really aren't as necessary as they were last year.
Wow, I never thought of that angle... gas prices hurting relationships and fellowships. Thank the Lord for other ways to connect- IM and email, for instance.
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