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In Defense Of "Scottish" (Part 3)
Posted by Grady Miller on May 17, 2014 - 6:00:37 AM

UNITED STATES—I am defiantly and unapologetically “Scottish.” I shop for parking meters that still flash green dots, betokening bonus time. I don’t pinch pennies but I pick them up. Right in the middle of Robertson Blvd. I retrieved two silver Roosevelts, one eye riveted on the traffic, the other one on the coins—a wall-eyed sight I must have presented—the dimes would come in handy in the parking meters of the city I love. How Scottish is that?


The thing that differentiates being “Scottish” from mere cheapness is a focus on benevolence as the end result of all the cheap antics. That kindles the heart and keeps one vibrant.


My grandmother who was half Scottish would buy a bottle of dishwashing soap and stretch it to the max, keeping a bottle of dishwashing soap concentrate under the sink, a second bottle by the sink for daily use. Into the second bottle she would pour an undiluted portion of liquid soap, and water filled the rest of the bottle to the top. All this she did in the name of raising two girls in the depths of the Depression.

There's gold in those trees, Scottish gold!


The whole dish soap thing I turned up a notch, melting a bar of Dial soap with water into a soapy goop used for cleansing bodies and dishes. This, after a house guest bought an economy-size package of Dial soap at a chain store, which contained more bars of soap that you could use in two lifetimes. In our generous land, being “Scottish,” too, means to navigate a delicate way between thrift and American superabundance.


We’ve got so much stuff coming at us through the mails, big box stores and in jumbo sizes. It’s really ludicrous how much paper waste I have to administrate and that manages to fill a gaping City of Los Angeles Recycling Container. This will diminish, fortunately, as more businesses seek to go paperless. In the meantime, I have found a use for all the clear-window envelopes that get sent in bills I pay in person: they’re great for storing categories of stuff where you can immediately. Coupons or gas receipts. That is pure Scottish and takes something that pesky and makes creative use of it. Call it thrift. Nevertheless, these are also exercises in seeing abundance. So much is given to us, and it’s so in our face, yet we are blinded to it.


I had to laugh yesterday. I had temporarily misplaced a higher-denomination bill while at the supermarket, and in this middle of this vexation, at sun-drenched 11 a.m., this brand-new penny in the parking lot blazed the whole intensity of the sun in my face. The blinding sensation was overwhelming. It seemed to say, “Here I am, gold and riches everywhere, and you’re worried about a lost bill.”


The riches are in trees that remain mostly un-harvested, the riches of nature bowing down the branches. Living in a warm clime and being a zealous advocate for fruits and vegetable, I have scoped out the neighborhood for the ample variety of fruit that grows here. Besides subsidizing my grocery bill, it is a form of abdominal exercise to reach the fruit-picking tool to the top branches, and it serves to hone my hunter’s eye to pick up the brightly colored ripe fruit from the green foliage.


Wall Street missed the boat with the Great Recession. Because of all the abundance, jumbo everything, it’s kind of a conspiracy against frugality, and Wall Street chose the way of comfort instead of happiness and innovation. Frugality is a gateway to happiness because where frugality reins gratitude blossoms. Here blossoms inventiveness and creativity, and it is from this grateful vantage that true abundance can be perceived daily and consistently. Let me say, meanness and poverty is truly a disease, it will stifle horizons and fuel people’s self-limitations.


Something I read stays with me from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich: Don’t let your means determine your desires; let your desires determine your means. And I believe self-imposed frugality (very far removed from that spawned by poverty) is a technique that can benefit personal contentment and our ability to be more lavish with ourselves and others. It is imperative, then, to be “Scottish” and align ourselves with gratitude and cultivate a state of greater giving.


Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Amazon Kindle. He can be reached at


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