Out on a walk on the island of Hydra, a vacationing Greek American comes upon an old Greek man sitting on a rock, sipping a glass of Ouzo, and lazily staring at the sun setting into the sea.
The wealthy American notices there are olive trees growing on the hills behind the old Greek but that they are untended, with olives just dropping here and there onto the ground. He asks the old Greek who owns the trees.
“They’re mine,” the Greek replies.
“Don’t you gather the olives?” the American asks.
“I just pick the one when I want one,” the old man says.
“But don’t you realize that if you pruned the trees and picked the olives at their peak, you could sell them? In America everybody is crazy about virgin olive oil, and they pay a damned good price for it.”
“What would I do with the money?” the old Greek asks.
“Why, you could build yourself a big house and hire servants to do everything for you.”
“And then what would I do?”
“You could do anything you want!”
“You mean, like sit outside and sip Ouzo at sunset?”
I always liked this philosophical story, because it teaches us what life is all about when we are getting older.
I had all the time in the world when I was a child. I studied hard and played even harder; I had time to investigate things, like the small radio in our kitchen that I took apart piece by piece, because I wanted to see how it worked.
Then, in my 20’s that’s when I didn’t have time anymore. That’s when the day didn’t have enough hours, because there was so much to do. We built a life together, we finished our studies and we jumped head first in our careers.
Making money that was the goal, because we wanted to have a good life and an even better retirement. We worked hard, sometimes too hard and too many hours.
Life is funny! We had it all figured out and then things changed. The economy spiraled down and we went with it. Careers ended, people were laid off and dreams were shattered.
Money was an even bigger issue then, because all of a sudden there wasn’t too much left. We had chased after it for more than 30 years to find out we still are just a few paychecks away from going over the cliff, like so many.
I kissed my career Good-bye and opened my little workshop. My hobby became my living and I like it. I am the captain of this ship, I dictate the direction and I sail when I want to.
Of course I have a goal, we have to pay bills and we still want a little bit of luxury in our every day life. A good bottle of wine, or a date night out is now luxury and it feels good. Now and then a road trip or quality time with friends, what else do we want?
A lady stopped by my workshop and asked me about my plans. She loved my work and she was full of ideas what I could do. “You should have a bigger workroom, some employees and bigger projects,” she said and I smiled.
I told her the story about the old Greek man and she just looked at me. I am already where I wanted to be, why change it?
Life is beautiful, it’s a gift. It doesn’t just involve around money. Make enough to have a comfortable life, but don’t forget living.