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There is more than one kind of wealth

Updated on June 17, 2010

Putting things in perspective

Some of the best things in life are still free
Some of the best things in life are still free

What is most important

 It seems as if the recession has caused an obsession with money and wealth.  The web is full of financial sites, and newspapers, magazines, television, radio and the Internet are constantly running stories about money.  Maybe everyone is feeling unstable--being broke and/or unemployed can make you feel that way.  It has been two years since everything went south and it does get discouraging trying to hold on.  Debt is draining and getting out is hard work.  Wondering if you are going to find work or if you are going to lose your job is scary. All the talk about money and saving it and making it can make us feel better for a little while.  It gives you something to do.  But sometimes it is necessary to take a step back from it all and put things in their proper perspective. 

There is more than one kind of wealth.  The person who measures all their riches in dollars and cents is flat, unidimensional and sad.  If all it took to be happy was money, then all rich people would be happy and all poor people would be sad and that is just not the case.  There are people who make lots of money but they are miserable because they are doing things they don't want to do and they feel trapped because the money is holding them there.  There are people who come into sudden wealth, like lottery winners, and it destroys their lives.  There are people who do illegal or immoral things for money and they have to constantly worry about being caught.  Money is not the be-all and end-all we make it out to be.

Health is wealth.  Health problems will wipe out your riches in a hurry.  Illness robs people of the enjoyment of life.  They are restricted in foods they eat.  They are restricted in their activities.  They are restricted in places they can go.  Things they took for granted now become difficult or even impossible.  If you have good health and you can go where you want and do what you want, you are wealthy.  You might be behind on the rent but you can make some money.  As long as you are healthy there is hope that you can improve your finances. You can keep trying until something opens up for you.  The person who has lost their health can't get it back and they would give you their wealth just to trade places with you. 

Relationships are wealth.  One of the challenges with money is that when you have a lot of it, plenty of people want to be around you.  Do they really like you, or just your money?  The late Billie Holiday sang a song, "God Bless the Child" and one part of the song says,

 "Money, you've got lots of friends/  crowded round your door/  when it's gone and spending ends/  they don't come around any more".

When people come into financial wealth they find out these words are true.  If you have people who you love and who love you back with or without money, you are rich.  If you have children who look up to you and admire you, you are rich.  If you have loving parents, a loving spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, you have wealth.  If you have good friends who appreciate your good qualities and put up with your bad ones, you have a fortune.  That's why we call such people fortunate. 

As a Christian, I know my connection to Jesus is wealth.  When I feel down in the dumps about the economy in general and my finances in particular, I remind myself that if I ask for help I will get it.  Sometimes it comes in the most unexpected and even crazy ways, but I always get the help I need. Knowing that lifts me back up and keeps me calm.  If you have a spiritual practice or belief system that works for you, you have wealth.  It will keep you from doing something desperate or tragic, like so many sad people who have gone over the edge.

I am not anti-wealth.  I like money just fine.  But money isn't everything.  Money is necessary to pay bills and to meet needs.  And after that it's nice to have some to go places and do fun things and have some neat stuff.  But it is possible to have a rich life without a lot of money.  People do it every day.  Instead of focusing on what you have had to give up, or what you don't have, it's good to think about all the riches you still possess.  Finances change and money goes up and down.  But the wealth that comes from good health, good companions and a good God last forever.

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