10/08/2013 08:39 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Needs, Wants and Wishes

This year has brought big changes into our family. We had fully intended to put our house on the market by the first of April, but my mother's illness and death made that impossible. We did the next best thing and got it ready by June 1.

The housing market had been incredibly hot in the spring. People wanting to own ranches like ours found themselves in bidding wars and paying more for the home than the asking price. We were ready for a good sale and a quick move. But, alas, the market took a turn about the same time we were ready and things were different for us. We didn't enjoy much of this experience at all. It wasn't that we had to keep the house spotless all of the time. It wasn't that over 50 people looked, but no offers came quickly. We aren't wimps. We could deal with that. However, the killer for us came in the comments we received about the house.

We received comments like "Needs too much work." That was strange to us as we had done quite a bit of work. We opened the kitchen to the dining room giving the house that "open-concept" everyone loves. Son Gregg put in granite tile countertops, a nice backsplash and new floor. We bought new white appliances. I painted every wall in the house with neutral colors. We updated the bathrooms. NEEDS TOO MUCH WORK? Seriously?????

Our realtor explained that while the real estate mantra used to be "location, location, location," today it is "condition, condition, condition." This means that people are looking for what they want without making any changes themselves. They don't have time. They want stainless steel appliances, new cabinets and solid granite countertops, none of which we had. Still we had a lovely home and in just over a month, someone bought it.

Can you tell I'm still stinging by the words, "NEEDS TOO MUCH WORK???????"

You see, "Needs too much work" implies that one can't move in until the work is done. "Needs too much work" implies that the plumbing doesn't work and there is no kitchen sink. "Needs too much work" implies that the windows are broken and drafty. "Needs too much work" means what it says, not that you don't like the style and you wish the newer appliances were stainless steel instead of white.

I could have appreciated it if someone said, "This isn't my style and I don't want to spend money to make it the way I want." But that isn't what was said. They said, "NEEDS TOO MUCH WORK."

How did we get to this place that as a society that we can't tell the difference between needs, wants and wishes?

In the 1980's I was part of a group at my church in Indianapolis that received grant money to create a ministry for at-risk teenagers. We called it "Likewise," because that is what Jesus tells us to do in the story of the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise."

We had sessions for four to six teenage boys. We assigned mentors. We held learning opportunities. Mark, the pharmacist, talked about what drugs do to your body. Renee, a chef, taught them how to make pizza and how to eat in a restaurant, i.e., "What does one do with all those forks?"

Mike and I taught about money. We even made up a game called "Needs, Wants and Wishes."

Each teen had to draw a card that told him what his job was, how much he would make and how many hours he would work each week. Then they had to spend money in these categories: housing, transportation, food, clothing, and miscellaneous.

They could choose to spend their money according to "needs, wants and wishes." For example, in the transportation category, a "need" is a good pair of shoes; a "want" is a bus pass or bicycle; a "wish" is a car. In housing, the "need" is a room; "a want" is an apartment with roommates; a "wish" is the place of your dreams. The same for clothing -- Goodwill, Wal-Mart or the Gap (or whatever store kids liked then).

Then they had to draw a "Life Happens" card once in each game. It could be a birthday gift from Aunt Mildred or an overdue library book fee.

The teens loved this game and learned a lot. They got a sense about how much it takes to live on your own. They learned that minimum wage salary, which was about $3.35 an hour in those days, didn't go far as one might think. They learned the differences between "needs, wants and wishes."

I am confident God wishes we would get it, too. Maybe then we would figure out what is really important.

What really "needs a lot of work" is our ability to tell the difference between "needs, wants and wishes." Our society will be so much better when we get those three things straight.