When we were raising our kids there was a family in town, who has since moved out of state, and they were members of so many places, clubs & organizations.  They belonged to two country clubs in our county, because the husband liked to play at both courses, they belonged to the local health club, they were members of a dinner dance club in town, a church, they were club members of a winter sport resort in Northern Michigan, not to mention their different groups of friends, the families who had kids their kids ages, their social friends, they were very involved in their alumni association from the University they attended.  I would run in to the Mom here and there since our kids were the same ages and we’d catch up then and over the years before they left the area.  She was nice, always willing to help out with activities their kids were involved with, their time and in any other way they could contribute, whether it was cookies, supplies or a monetary donation.  Their kids were good kids, well behaved from what I observed from a distance and they did so much as a family. I remember seeing the Mom’s name on a locker at our health club.  Any member could USE a locker while they were at the gym, you typed in your code and while using the club that day, you could leave your bag/coat/boots locked in the locker,  that was included in the monthly membership fee.  However, if you wanted a larger locker, to keep toiletries in, maybe your shoes or what ever you felt would make it more convenient for you, for a fee of $25 per month, they would place an engraved plate on a full size locker that was yours to use and leave items in. I remember thinking, they belong to everything, do they USE everything they belong to?  Really that was absolutely none of my business.  If they could afford all of those memberships it was their business how they choose to spend their money.  But I did wonder, how does one have time to use all of the benefits that come with a membership to this and that?  I try to be a good steward of what we have and be respectful of our finances so it would make me uncomfortable to write checks or set up auto payment for all of that stuff, before you pay a mortgage, the electric bill, buy groceries or pay health insurance or put a little money in the bank to save for retirement or a rainy day or pay the cable bill.  Again, that’s none of my business, that’s just how my mind works. I wondered if their memberships suited their needs? Also, did they value the benefits and did they enrich their family’s life?  Did those memberships contribute to Great Days for them?

a room with a bench in the middle of it
Photo by Angelina Yan / Unsplash

Remember the American Express credit card commercial from a few years back when credit cards just began to entice customers by offering goodies in terms of airline miles, hotels, vacations, dining rewards and their slogan, “Membership has its  privileges.”  Maybe additional benefits were a free checked bags, free entry into the Delta lounge at the airport, or a free companion ticket. We signed up for one of those credit cards and we did enjoy the benefits, when traveling with 3 kids skiing, free checked bags made a big difference.  A free companion ticket meant the trip out there came down in cost and to be able to  accrew miles with our points sometimes even resulted in little or no travel cost for plane tickets.  That adds up after a while and we felt that we utilized the benefits of the Delta credit card.  At the time, for us, paying the $99 per year to have the use and benefits of that credit card, made sense.  We paid for groceries on it, gas, kid expenses, you name it.  Of course, we paid it off every month, as we subscribed to the philosophy that if we can’t afford to pay for something, we don’t need it and we never carried a balance. 

     Do you ever think about all the places you have membership to and do YOU utilize your benefits?  Consider the place that feeds you spiritually, your place of worship?  Do you listen to sermons, attend, take any enrichment or Bible study classes or attend any events? If you are going through a difficult patch or need to talk to someone for some sound unbiased advice, do you consult your clergy?  How about a group of Moms, the Ladies Guild, Men’s Group or help out with Children’s activities?  Most places of worship have a strong leader who delivers a meaningful message each week in person and sometimes recorded and online.  Look at all the support a church or synagogue can offer a young family, from gathering with like minded other parents, to enrichment or Bible classes to strengthen or enrich your knowledge of your Faith. Consider the support available if you just need someone to talk to and also consider what you can contribute. In many circumstances, when you give, you end up receiving much more than you ever imagined. That is NOT why you give, it’s just one of the benefits of generous person. Membership has its privileges…

      What about the place you go to for recreation, your health club or your community center that offers classes.  Most health clubs offer a variety of classes, nice fitness equipment, possibly childcare or discounts on personal training or discounts on services for members.  Do you utilize the benefits your club offers. The club we attend offers free tennis court time.  To pay to belong to a separate tennis club would make no sense when to reserve a court is included in a membership.  Some clubs offer special events for members to participate in.  Most clubs have all of these benefits on literature at the front/check-in area or online.  Membership has its privileges.  

group of women exercise using dumbbells
Photo by bruce mars / Unsplash

     Consider your friendships. First of all, you have to be a friend to have a friend.  We keep in touch with our friends, we are there for them in good and bad, we respect them and their time and they do the same for us.  Do you utilize the benefits that come with good healthy friendships?  Do you take the time to spend time with those quality friends in your life?  Sometimes they come over for happy hour, coffee or a simple dinner in or out? Do you remember them on their birthday or call them up just to let them know you are thinking of them?  Do you enjoy a good laugh, joke or a favorite old movie with them and talk about how that movie makes you feel and why it is your favorite?  Think about the wonderful friends in your life who are there and if you just make the call, text the message or send the email and set a time to get together how much fun it would be.  Sure everyone can get caught up in their own life and responsibilities, but can’t you just find the time and make it happen?  Again, to have a friend, you have to be one.  Logging time with a ‘membership’ of good friends, gives you access to meaningful relationships.  Membership has it’s privileges.  

four women sitting on black steel bench during daytime
Photo by Chris Murray / Unsplash

      Think about your family, your children, your parents, your siblings. Sometimes because they are OUR FAMILY we take them for granted, they are always there. “I don’t have to make the effort, because they know they are special to me.”  It could be easy to have that attitude.  However, who do you count on when times are tough?  Who do you want to be there for the celebrations in life, the births, birthdays, the graduations, engagements, weddings, etc.?  Of course, your family and most likely, they will be there for you regardless if you have seen them over the years or not, after all, blood IS thicker than water.  But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a good relationship too in addition to just being ‘related?’  I think of the kids who say that their grandparents weren’t part of their life growing up or the grandparents who weren’t ‘invited’ into their grandchildren’s lives by the parents who didn’t make the effort to make phone calls, trips or extend invitations for their children’s monumental celebrations.  Consider siblings that don’t stay in touch.  We’re all seen it if not experienced it first hand. Membership in a family is something to be treasured. to have parents especially as we age is something to value, to have their wisdom to learn from to allow your children to have them in their lives, or aunts or uncles, why wouldn’t you?  For any of us to have people in our lives who love us unconditionally is a gift and is one of the benefits of membership in a family.  Sure, they may be the critical aunt or uncle who tells jokes that aren’t funny but they are your kin, your people.  Accept them as they are, don’t be too hard on them and remember, they have to put up with YOU TOO!  Membership has it’s privileges.  

people standing on shore during golden hour
Photo by Tyler Nix / Unsplash

     How about the special person in your life?  Your spouse, your significant other.  Do you show your appreciation for them?  We were out with a couple we have known for years. He is a high school athletic coach.  He received an honor for his many years of service and when he accepted his reward, he recognized his wife who had attended many practices and matches over the years, even when their own children had moved on and were no longer on his team.  He retold a story of  situation when an opposing team’s star player was playing with such disrespect to their team and parents watching.  The coach’s wife stood up and told the player that this behavior was disappointing and she would have expected more from a player and that she was disrespecting her team and her school. He told the story with gratitude for the years she spent supporting and being understanding when he was away for tournaments and team events. In over 22 years of coaching and 35 years of marriage they still had the strong love and admiration for one another.  We read or hear about marriages that loose the sparkle and people who stop putting their best foot forward for their special person. Maybe the intimacy is gone or just not what it could be. It’s easy to blame someone else or look at someone else’s little faults.  News flash, none of us are perfect, we all have our shortcomings when we spend day after day, night after night with someone year after year.  When you live with someone, you see the good, the bad and the ugly.  If you found your person, why not make the best situation you possibly can? Some people have a hard time finding their person and it can be difficult to find someone who shares your values and visions for a future together.  Mutual respect matters and kindness can make the toughest of days a little easier.  A good marriage, like any good business partnership or friendship takes time and effort.  A business that isn’t managed well will fail.  A garden not well tended to will not produce a good harvest a friendship not nurtured will not last and that friend will just become someone you one knew.  Take time for walks, sitting by the fire, plan that trip you’ve always wanted to take.  Your person is right in front of you, what are you waiting for, make that marriage the one you envisioned when you embarked on that adventure.  Membership has its privileges.

man and woman holding hand using pinky fingers
Photo by Hunter Newton / Unsplash

  There came a time when we were no longer needing five tickets every time we went on a family vacation.  We used to drive down to Detroit to fly Delta so we were racking up miles on the Delta credit card and it was a good thing for us to have it and pay the $99 annual fee.  The free bag benefit was a big bonus for us. Now another airlines, Allegiant flies out of our local Flint Bishop Airport and they go to destinations we frequently travel to or connect out of.  This airport is about 15 minutes away from our house, parking is very reasonable and we don’t have to waste time driving down to Detroit, fight the traffic or pay the high parking prices.  Since we no longer fly Delta, we have no use for access to the Delta Lounges.  The Delta credit card membership no longer suits our needs and the benefits are no longer a value to us and we no longer need that membership.  When you don’t see value in something you move on to what you do value.  Do your memberships suit your needs?  Do you value the benefits and do they enrich your life?  Consider if your memberships bring you Great Days?

Author, Mary Yana Burau