Conservation Corner: Listen to your heart, not what others tell you

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 26, 2018

“Once upon a time,” many years ago, I went to St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

One of the courses required for graduation, to be taken each year for four years, was called Christianity and Culture, aka C&C. Many of the students hated C&C, especially the math and science majors, but it was one of my favorite courses.

C&C was an in-depth study of world history, with emphasis on the struggles of civilizations to find a balance between the dominate culture and societal values of the time and the spiritual or religious values. This struggle has been going on for many centuries; it’s not a new problem and there are no easy answers.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

When it comes to property, our culture has taught us to make a profit whenever possible. This rule applies to land just the same as it applies to getting the highest-paying job and selling our used car or our mother’s cherished painting.

The faster we move, the more money we make. And maybe we are ever so proud because we save some of that hard earned money, too.

But, there is a conflict that we hardly even notice anymore, that conflict being that our cultural values are not bringing us happiness, regardless of our “success.”

I have noticed over the years that important land-based decisions are very often made based upon what I would call a deep  spiritual “gut” feeling.

I can remember Allen and I trying to decide whether to buy, or not to buy, this remote land near Saluda, with no road and an old house with a leaky roof.  We did all the math, the pros and cons, and could not come up with a decision.

Then we sat beside the creek, and we sat, and then the answer became clear.

This is where we wanted to be. This is where we wanted to raise our family, even if it meant walking home on a mile long driveway until we had saved enough money to have the road fixed.

We have never regretted that decision, and neither have our children. The decision came from the heart, not from the mind.

I asked my mother years ago “What do you want most from life?” and all she could answer was “I don’t know, but I don’t want other people telling me what to do.”

I thought that answer was shallow, but now I’m thinking that it meant more than even mother thought.

Society does tell us what to do, over and over, and we listen to it more than we listen to our own hearts.

“Buy low, sell high” is the number one rule of real estate. Those of you who own land, think about that for a while.

Do we really want to see the land that we have loved for all our years be leveled for a development, regardless of our profit? Do we want to leave our children and grandchildren a fat stock portfolio, or a beautiful parcel of land that we have loved? Is there an “externality” called a sense of place that is worth more for generations to come than that stock portfolio?

When 4-year-old Lucy was asked at school to name her favorite activity, it was “running around outside.” She loves walking in the woods, and playing in the creek and listening to the owls at dusk, just like her sister and her parents and her uncles did before her.

How much does that cost? We could say that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

The cost is the price of one of us making the decision from our heart, not taking the money, but rather choosing quality of life instead.

Those of us who have land have a great opportunity to give our children and grandchildren the priceless gift of a “sense of place.” Think about what you want to “see” after you leave this earth a subdivision or a Walmart, or a forest or meadow brimming with all sorts of life?

That decision should come from your heart rather than from your accountant.

I close with this simple question: what is the gift that you want to leave to those coming after us?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s an important one.