Are you Rich or Poor?

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When I was a little girl, I liked going to the bank with Mama and Daddy. When I saw how much money they were depositing every month, I felt sure they were holdin’ out on my brother and me.  My parents, both teachers, must be stock-piling thousands of dollars in a Swiss account somewhere.  Every time I saw the deposit amount, my eyes grew wide.  We were rich.  Filthy stinkin’ rich.  What in the world were they doing with all that money?  My brother and I could be swimming in our own pool, eating out every meal, and flying to Paris for family vacations. We could even own a juke box and a pool table…if only Mom and Dad weren’t so stingy with their apparent wealth.   To add insult to injury, Mom didn’t even let us buy Cocoa Puffs every week.  “Too expensive,” she’d say. What could this woman be thinking?  Did she think we didn’t know?

While riding in the backseat of that ’71 yellow Le Sabre, I made a decision.  I wasn’t going to be like my parents.  Oh no.  I’d be much more generous with my kids when I was rollin’ in the dough.  We’d eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and Fruity Pebbles for lunch. We’d go to Mike’s Diner every night for supper.  If we didn’t eat at Mike’s Diner, we’d have Banquet frozen dinners. (Mom hardly ever let us buy Banquet frozen dinners.)  In the summer, we’d fly to exotic vacation spots and buy flowery shirts and drink chocolate milk out of coconuts.  Every time we drove past the Dairy Barn, we’d stop for ice cream.  I’d NEVER say, “Not today.”  No.  My kids would never ask to stop at the Dairy Barn and hear the words, “Not today.” Wow, my kids would be the luckiest kids in the world.

But you guessed it.  Fast forward 30 years and our kids grew up pretty much like I did.  They heard phrases like, “Sweetie, put these crackers back and get the ones in the black and white box.”  “We don’t need to eat out.  We’ve got good food at home.”  “The Dairy Barn?  No, Honey, not today.”

In 2019, we live in a world filled with social media images.  Images of family trips to the beach.  Images of European cruises and weekly mani/pedi appointments.  Images of new cars and expensive meals out.

And sometimes?  Sometimes you may be tempted to think, “The whole world is doing better than we are.  My family is just broke.  We’re working hard but we’re missing out on the good life.  We’re paying the electric bill.  But there’s nothing left for a summer vacation.  Our kids will probably resent us.  They’ll get mad when we can’t buy the latest phone or cool clothes.  They’ll grow tired of being denied the things all their friends have.”

May I be perfectly honest?  Grow up, friend.  Seriously.  Grow up.  Your kids may not be grown yet, but you are.  So act like a grown person.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  A secret to extreme happiness?  Grown people don’t cry over what they don’t have.  They rejoice over what they do have.  They relish the blessings of hard work.  They know that eating food several times a day is an indicator of great wealth.  And they celebrate that wealth with extreme appreciation.  Grown people see cutting a watermelon in the back yard as a moment of family celebration.  A life of extreme blessing.

Look at past generations in your own family.  Did your grandmother take you on exotic vacations?  Did your dad hand you a $900 phone because you were breathing?  Did your parents take you out to eat every other night?  If they did, that’s fine.  Let me clarify.  There is nothing wrong with renting a beach house or going on an exotic vacation (if you don’t go in debt to do it).  Those are blessings.  Wonderful blessings!

But I’m guessing most of you come from families like mine, families that thought summertime fun meant spraying each other with a water hose.  Or eating home-grown corn and tomatoes on the picnic table.   If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my grandparents gave us underwear every year for Christmas.  Every single year.  Oh, and we acted like we were excited about that underwear too.  Why did we act like we were excited about underwear?   Because our parents raised us to have manners, and that included expressing our annual underwear enthusiasm.

Our parents didn’t give us everything we wanted.   They gave us something way better.  They were wildly content with their lives and their blessings.  They passed that contentment on to us.  And we loved them.  We loved them beyond what can be expressed in this blog.

When our boys were preschoolers, a pack of gum was considered a luxury item.  I recently looked over some old pictures of our days in that trailer park in Texas.   Phil turned an old cooler into an amusement park ride.  The boys took turns getting into the cooler and then Phil would slowly lift them from the ground while making engine noises.  They were delirious with joy.  And so were we.  Yes, we go on different vacations now.  But the joy?  It’s that same exact joy.

Kids who have more aren’t necessarily spoiled.  Kids who have less aren’t necessarily resentful.  No. The truth?  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or barely making the electric bill.  Kids are looking to their parents to find out what they need in order to be happy.  So be thankful.  Be appreciative.  Be a grown-up.  Stop whining about things you wish you had or places you wish you could go.  Stop.  Thank God for the food on your table and the ones there to eat it.  And your kids?  Someday they’ll thank you.  They’ll thank you because no matter their financial situation, they’ll have everything they need.

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