I’ve had one of those weeks, as many do in winter, where I feel remarkably lethargic. The energy levels decrease, and the ambition does the same.
This brings to mind a Proverb of Solomon.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
– Proverbs 6:6
Which of course brings to mind the fable by Aesop.
In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.
“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”
“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”
“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.
Then the Grasshopper knew…
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
The farmer and the ant are very similar creatures. Both slave away during the hot sun of Summer, working to prepare for the cold months ahead. The difference is that the ants sleep all winter long, while the farmer still has to do enough to keep his livestock alive.
Seasons come and go regularly, both in nature and in our lives. Though in life the seasons are not as easily predicted as in nature, we can still be assured we will have Winters of difficulty as well as Springs of hope. Today’s culture doesn’t take too much time to consider the possibilities of a bad future. We get what we want when we want: fast food, instant communication, microwavable dinners. We don’t like to wait for anything. Our lack of patience and foresight can lead us to forget the principles of frugality and preparation.
It is folly to enjoy abundance and assume you will always have it, as many Americans learned in the late 1920’s. On the farm you learn to see the seasons of life with the seasons of nature. You can have a great crop one year and a terrible one the next. You can never be certain what you’ll get.
Here are the principles that farmer’s use to prepare for the days of necessity:
- Insurance – Crop insurance is becoming increasingly popular in agriculture, a way of at least mitigating your loss in a bad year. No matter how much you hate writing the insurance check, you’ll be glad to have it when it’s needed.
- Savings – A good rule to follow is to save 10% of everything you earn. Don’t touch it unless absolute necessary. By saving 10% you grow your savings on a regular basis that adds faster than you would expect. Building a nest-egg this way allows a cushion of security in case you need it.
- Frugality – Rarely a popular idea, thrift is generally avoided at most cost, yet it is among the best ways to prevent overindulgence. This doesn’t mean you have to wear feed bags or disconnect your electricity. Just take simple steps to reduce your spending. Get a library card to borrow movies rather than buy them, get a streaming service rather than cable, buy a used car instead of a new one, etc.
- Diligence – Last, but not least, this is what saves the ant. Hard work in the days of plenty will serve you well when times are lean. A hard worker is less likely to be laid off than a slacker. If your income is based on your personal effort it is even more reason to be the most productive employee you can.
There are times when, while you are working or saving, someone will say, “Come chat with me.” They will have multiple ways for you to drop your work and your money. There are times for fun, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of your future. The college student should study for his test and the employee should finish his assignment. When you are secure in winter, having prepared for it, the grasshopper will live long enough to regret his folly.
If the world is divided into ants and grasshoppers, which are you? How do you prepare for Winter?