How much better off financially I am today over those hardscrabble days of my youth!
I know where my next meal is coming from (not sure for how many days I can make that boast....). I am warm, sheltered, and dressed. I have a little (literally a little) money in the bank.
I think I am rich compared to my childhood.
One childhood memory which is deeply etched in mind was a certain evangelist who often preached revivals in the Church of God my family attended when I was young.
I can't remember the theme of single sermon he preached. I guess they were too similar to the steady diet of holiness theology we feasted upon. But I do remember that at least once in every revival (and usually more often) he would find a place in the middle of one his sermons to sing this little ditty (in his off-key manner) about being a millionaire. "My father is rich in houses and land and I'm his heir." And at the point of the song he would lift his bony finger to point towards the sky (or at least the ceiling of the church), while the motion lifted his suit coat and displayed his ill-fitting dress slacks, which hung off his butt like a floppy cape.
Don't ask me how or why that is the memory I have of old Preacher Giles, but it is. Kids notice the oddest things.
At about this same period of my life my mom, who was a vocal soloist at the church (as well as part of the lady's trio), used to sing a song that said she was "poor as a beggar, but I'm rich as a king." She sung it a lot. Again, with a child mind's I heard "I'm poor as a baker...." I didn't understand that one. But looking back now I can understand how pained my mom was that her family didn't have nice things (or even often enough to eat) like most of her friends at the church. Mom and Dad took care of her parents until they died after lengthy illnesses.
My hungry youth left a mark on me. I'm a saver. My ex-wife used to jokingly call me "Squeaky." Truth is, I never want to go to bed cold and hungry again. Not if I can help it.
At the same time, my happiness doesn't come from things. I've been trying to whittle down my abundance of possession for some time now. I rarely buy a book anymore (my biggest weakness), unless I really, really want to read it. I don't keep a deep wardrobe, desiring rather to be neat instead of fancy. I keep staples in my pantry but only "stock up" if I find a good sale. Time to simplify. I may live for many more years or I may not. But I'm wanting to travel more lightly now. I don't want to leave a mess for others to clean up when I die.
I'm rich. I have what I need and many more of my wants than is reasonable. We often forget in these wealthy nations how well we have it compared to much of the world.
You know what? When I think back to my childhood, to that drafty and very poorly insulated house of ours, where we piled every blanket in the house on our beds and then Mom would get her dress coats and lay them on top of that, when our meals consisted sometimes of oatmeal every morning for breakfast, sugar sandwiches for lunch, and beans, potatoes and cornbread for supper - when I think back and recall how I felt having my family all together - I wasn't poor at all. Oh, to be that rich again!