Tiny toy prosperity rituals remind me to keep getting better and better at giving.
The story of the little horses begins in Fort Collins, Colorado, when I was a little girl.
I had a fascination with horses at the time, as many little girls do. My friend Amy, whose family was upper-middle-class, had the entire collection of Breyer’s small Stablemates horses (1:32 scale), as well as many of the larger ones (1:12 scale). My family was middle-class, so my parents only got me a few of the tiny horses. I loved their detail and variety and purchased a few more with my allowance, but ultimately finances limited the size of my collection to a dozen or fewer.
Decades passed and I grew up. Financially, I phased through Starving College Student, Decent Job, Unemployed and Injured, and Nearly Homeless. Finally I entered the Golden Handcuffs phase, and soon after, Just Bought a House.
Not long after the house purchase, perhaps thirty years after my childhood friendship with Amy, I found the very same Breyers horses at the toy store near my house! I was shocked to see them priced about the same! Although my finances were still wobbling back up to speed, I decided it was OK to collect a few of my equestrian favorites.
“I am a grownup,” I realized. “I have more money now; they aren’t very expensive. I can get the whole damn collection if I want to.” I didn’t buy them all, but eventually I had the little horses I remembered from my childhood collection, a few from Amy’s, plus a few more, maybe a few dozen. My inner child was very happy seeing the four-legged fleet all lined up along the top of my desk.
I didn’t realize it consciously at the time, but I was performing a prosperity ritual. I was trying to show myself that my mindset and my spiritual relationship with money had shifted in a fundamental way. I still struggled with those stomach-sick feelings of insecurity and worry. But I was trying to have faith that the universe is fundamentally an abundant place.
I needed to believe that the universe has a way of providing; that I would have enough disposable income to get some things that I wanted, not just what I needed; that my survival was already guaranteed, and now I could thrive. The financial investment in the little horses must have been less than $200….but spiritually, it was priceless. (It would have made a great Visa commercial.)
More years passed. My finances became more stable. Eventually I put most of the little horses away, keeping a few favorites out. It didn’t seem right, but I didn’t know what else to do with all of them.
One day I opened the drawer with the little horses in it. Giving, service and charity had been on my mind, and at that time the economy was tanking hard. I realized that the prosperity ritual—by then I knew it was one—was not yet complete.
At first I thought that to complete the ritual, I had to give the horses away. I started giving the little horses to others who needed an extra shot of “prosperity think.”
But desperate people don’t need a toy horse. They need money for medical bills, electricity, food, rent. Delivering a toy horse along with a self-serving story but no cash just made me a cheap asshole. I had to give away what the horses symbolized. Duh Michelle!
So I started writing checks to go with the little horses. Without a check, a horse has only some magic. With a check, a horse becomes a cute little booster shot of abundance and faith. People need both, checks and faith. My wish for them, and for myself, is that we all become able to pay it forward, easily, freely and with love.
Most of the horses have been given away by now; I have only a few favorites left. I have many more checks than horses left, and I still write some (or give digitally). Sometimes giving money is easy; sometimes it is hard. My scared, vulnerable, security-craving inner child and the more rational, practical, stable adult self frequently wrestle for control of the checkbook. The adult self doesn’t always win. This is a personal failing and I’m working on it: trying to combat compassion fatigue; choosing causes in line with my values; and setting dollar amounts that aren’t triggering and won’t short-circuit other generous impulses.
I haven’t evolved as far financially or spiritually as I would like. Someday I will reach a point where giving feels fabulous, not frightening. Until then my little horses will remind me to keep getting better at giving.