Rich is a relative term
Here’s a story from my book, Snakes, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tales.
“Mommommom! Pick a color!” My middle son thrust a cootie-catcher at me. I was folding laundry on the dining room table.
He studied the word momentarily and then spelled out, “O-R-A-N-G-E.” as he worked his fingers back and forth, opening the cootie catcher first one way and then the other, six times to correspond with the letters in the word “orange.”
“Pick a number.” He showed me the number choices inside the cootie catcher.
“One-two.” He moved the cootie catcher back and forth again.
“Okay, pick another number. This is your final number…” he said gravely, to underscore that I should choose wisely.
He lifted the flap where the number five was written so he could tell me my fortune. “You are rich,” he announced with a big smile.
“Ummmm…well…” and my mind wandered to my post-Christmas credit card bills and to the camp brochures that had arrived the previous week necessitating that I begin planning how to finance my summer childcare plans. And then to the oil delivery that was certainly imminent because it had been so cold this winter, save for that one week where we had a couple of 50-degree days. I lamented that my grocery budget seemed out of control and that every morning I counted out small coins (doing my best to limit the number of pennies because my oldest had informed me that nobody at school has time to count pennies) for milk money.
“…do you think we’re rich, honey?”
“Of course, Mom. You have alotta money!”
I smiled back at him and reflected with much gratitude that my boys don’t know what it’s like not to get relief from their hunger or cold, and that they weren’t yet too cool to eschew hand-me-downs. And that we had made it through the year that I coughed up one-third of my income for childcare – and all that entailed. That year there were times that I wondered why I bothered working at all, and cursed the powers-that-be that I could only claim $5K of that money as tax exempt – don’t “they” know that if I didn’t have childcare, I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the economy at all?
“Hmmmm. ‘Alotta’ isn’t exactly a number, but it’s enough to get most of what we need and some of what we want…” I contemplated how one year rebuilding the front porch trumped our vacation plans, but the next year the trip to Disney and some white duct tape kept our bathroom on the deferred maintenance program.
The boys and I frequently talked about needs vs. wants. I remind them of one of my favorite sayings, “Happiness is not having everything you want, but wanting everything you have.”
“…so, if you think we’re rich, we are,” I confirmed.
People often say to me, “God bless you,” when they find out I have three sons. This usually occurs when they witness me herding them through the supermarket, church, or the airport when I flew them across the country to visit Grandma and back. I tell them, “He already has.” Richly.