Like many people, especially those of our generation, Tim and I seem to be in a constant battle with finances. We get by, we budget and we generally get there, but it will be a very, very long time before we have the chance to buy a property, go on regular holidays or simply just have the money to "splash out" once in a while.
And sometimes, knowing that every single little purchase has to be justified, can really get you down. Sometimes, you just want to be able to splash out and treat yourself when you're finding life difficult. Money doesn't make you happy, but treating yourself can!
But then, it only takes a little something to put it all into perspective and make you realise just how much you truly have…
I've recently been re-reading Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, which I first read for my GCSEs (so at around the age of 15). I went on to read the next book in the epic (Let the Circle Be Unbroken) a few years back, but have unfortunately never read the ones that follow. But these two books are plenty enough to remind me just how lucky we are in today's society, for all the problems that still exist.
Now, there are plenty of things which have helped me gain perspective about how lucky I am, including recent events in Japan and Libya. I know I am lucky to have a roof over my head and live in a country where a dictatorship is impossible to imagine. But I still don't think those things bring it home enough for me, as they still seem distant from me in some way.
But reading the story of Cassie Logan and her family, as they struggled to survive in Mississipi in the 1930s really speaks to me far more. The Logans are lucky, in that they have a strong family unit, and that they own their own land in a time when so many had to work another's land for a pittance of a wage. They had a lot to be thankful for and they knew it, but that didn't stop them struggling with the way of life.
It was hard to meet the payments and taxes, and their father had to go away to work on the railroad. There was a constant threat of acting the wrong way around the "whites" and getting into serious trouble. And all the while, the family are trying to keep faith in a better future.
I love the fact that the novels are written from the perspective of Cassie, as she grows into her teen years and has to learn the way of life. Her anger and inability to understand why she should be treated differently to the "whites" is exactly how the reader feels looking at the events from today's point of view. I get angry for her, even knowing that life did get better for families like hers.
And this gives me the perspective I need… life may be hard in many ways for us these days, but I don't have to worry about half the things that Cassie had to. And if the Logan's, with all the difficulties facing them, could be strong and happy and stick together and be a positive influence on those around them, then surely I can do the same when my challenges are so much less.
This is why I love reading so much, and why no matter how much I watch the news it will never bring this perspective to me in the same way as a personal account will. The tale that Cassie tells is based on the stories that the author's (Mildred D. Taylor) own family used to relate to her, which gives it such a personal edge that you are sucked right into the world with Cassie and her brothers rather than watching from a distance.
If you've never read these books and are looking for a different read, why not consider picking Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry up and seeing what you think. I swear that it will not only cheer you, but also break your heart. And when a book does that, then I consider it well worth a read!