On Being Rich

onemansleg-3x5-198x300I mentioned yesterday that I was finally getting a chance to read Paul Martin’s book One Man’s Leg.  This is a memoir of a man who lost his leg after a car accident and goes on to find himself as a began result running triathlons, skiing, playing hockey and surprisingly giving up a very well paying job to pursue his dream of being a full time athlete.  I knew this was his journey but I was surprised by what I have read.

When Paul is considering leaving his job he is confronted by a barrage of opinions from those around him.  Some he mentions are:

  • You’re crazy!
  • You’re just going to throw you college education away?
  • Good for you.
  • How do you know you are going to like ski racing?

The decision to leave security for an unpredictable future is hard for everyone.  Today just doing something that is unique or out of the norm will get many of us the same responses.

But Paul had an amazing ally, his grandmother, who told him she saw he wasn’t happy in his job.  Her response to his dilemma was “You don’t want to be my age and say ‘what if’. You better pack your bags.”  This was really all the encouragement he needed.  But she went one step further.  She shared a letter she had written a friend after a weekend visit she made to this friend’s home.  The letter was her definition of what being rich is.  I wanted to share that part with you today as I think it says everything.

March 1966

What I think being rich means

Is having a friend think enough of me to invite me to her home for a weekend.  I could have gone to the best hotel in New York and pay —I would  have been alone.

Is having her sister greet me at the door and making me feel welcome in her home.  Instead of a strange bellhop at the hotel.

Is sitting at her table and eating food prepared especially for me, while Larry, her nephew, entertained us on the piano.  Instead of eating alone in a famous restaurant.

Is having a friend think enough of me to take the day off to take me sight-seeing in New York City. Instead of taking a tour of the city alone with no one to talk to.

Is having been poor enough to have to rip up old clothes to be able to dress my family by sewing them up into wearable clothes and learning a trade and developing a skill that has made me able to design clothes to compete with Dior, Bianchini, and the like.  And being able to show my appreciation by fashioning a coat especially for Jim.  Instead of being rich, going to college and getting a diploma and never having met a friend like you at 322 Waldo street.

Thanks for a wonderful weekend.

Albina

If I were to write a letter

If I were to write a letter, or even simply a list to share with those I love the most telling them what I felt rich meant to me it would have to contain the following:

  • Finding love in unexpected places.
  • Knowing I have people I can count on because they care, not because they believe it’s a responsibility they must carry.
  • Having a roof over my head that is safe and secure.
  • Having my health when so many suffer with horrible illnesses
  • Hearing my son’s tell me they had a wonderful childhood where they always knew where I was and that I was there for them, appreciating the choice I made to earn less to be home with them more.
  • Hearing my son tell me I’m his best friend.
  • Having a college student and neighbor ask me to attend his wrestling match because he feels we are family.  Seriously how many college students befriend a 50 year old woman and her family?

I guess I could go on all night, but I will stop here and ask you now.  What does being rich mean to you?

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16 thoughts on “On Being Rich

  1. I loved, loved that letter. And I love that you posted it, and that there’s people out there who feel the same as I do. I am wealthy, not in terms of money but due to a life that I find both challenging and rewarding, with family and friends close by to share it with.

    Thank you so much for this post.

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    • I had to stop and read that letter a couple of times as it was so beautiful. The author of the letter was not poor by any financial measurement, yet it was those simpler things that meant more to her. Her career was what she did she enjoyed her career, but it didn’t define her. I became aware of how much we define ourselves by our career rather than who we are deep down.

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  2. Being rich is staying home with my daughter despite the fact that I’m single. Being rich is having more than enough money to pay our bills with some money left to splurge. Being rich is a long soak in the bathtub, knowing that you have nowhere you NEED to be cause all is well with your world. Being rich is a warm home, a full belly and the knowledge that you have everything you need right there.

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    • That is the ultimate description of being rich. It’s those simple things and the people we love that make our life worth living. Your warm home, full belly and knowing you have everything you need are something so many in the world can only dream about and yet for many having exactly what you and I have isn’t enough, it’s so sad.

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    • Me too Alex. I know a girl who grew up with my boys who calls me often because her family condemns the career choices she’s made to be able to stay home with her daughter as a single parent. She’s able to work 4 hours 4 times a week and still build a savings for emergencies but needs to know she has support in her choices some days as it really gets her down. I feel for her, but am so happy to see her and many other young people making the choice of family over the big bucks.

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      • You show an example of how society is so prejudiced towards unhealthy attitudes and ideas. I am glad you provide a source of confirmation to this person that they made the right choices.

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        • She’s a sweet girl trying to do right by her child and getting criticism all around. I believe when it comes to parenting, we each have an opportunity to do what we think in our heart is best, and should not have others telling us how to parent. No one is perfect, we all have to make choices and compromises to reach our goal.

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  3. I was thinking, last night, about how lucky I am not only to be healthy, but to have those nearest and dearest to me safe and happy and healthy too. I know this won’t always be the case, and I know that part of a rich life is being there for one another when it isn’t, but I feel immensely grateful right now.

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    • Laura, I too think just as you do. I am happy to know that my family is healthy and even happy. They are safe and warm and able to enjoy what life has to offer, but I know when the chips are down they know I am here for them and vice versa.

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  4. Having lots of money does not make one rich. Life experiences, travel and beautiful relationships are what make life worth living. Being money rich will not stop you going to the same place as the poor when we die. As my mother always says, there are no pockets in a shroud :)

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    • What a great saying your mother has. I too see it as I can’t take it with me and believe using the money I have for experiences and helping others is the best way to use it. I would never trade any of my life experiences or relationships for money.

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