Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was fun, genuine fun. We played outside down the street somewhere till mom would call us or the tall lights far overhead would come on signaling the hour. Dogs were never leashed nor cleaned up after. Bikes could be seen thrown down in almost everyone’s yard as the adults sat and gabbed on the front porch. Sometimes someone else’s mom would send me home if I was spotted or visa versa. My cousins who lived just one street over called on me every morning so that we could all walk to school together safe from bullies, strangers and those wandering dogs which could be very frightening to a kid. Mom would always poured them a wee glass of OJ as they stood waiting in the porch, you know in those tiny glass jars that salmon spread came in. I knew which houses had the best Halloween treats and the best vacation Bible school in summer. I went to swimming lessons and almost froze to death, yes outside in early morning, and to camp every summer from the time I was 8 years old. There were 5 of us in a tiny two bedroom house which I was always told that my father built from second-hand lumber. It was heated with a small annex wood stove in the kitchen and the oil stove in the living room. The Pan Dandy bread man lived across the street so we had a handy source close by if we ever ran short which we seldom did. I distinctly remember each loaf of the bread had a big sticker on the end that said 19 cents. The milk man delivered his wares daily in glass bottles of course-seemed like everything was sold in glass or tins or wrapped in paper with not a lot of plastic in use yet. Oh and what a treat it was to get a quart of chocolate milk occasionally even though mom weakened it with white to make it go further. I dreamed of not diluting it whenever I had my own kitchen.
Then there was church, church, church. Mom was always preparing food for the pastors including visiting ones. I know because I was the delivery girl. Mom would drive me to the manse where I would gingerly carry the delicious smelling dish to the door. She was very generous and a wonderful cook. I always got what I asked Santa to bring me including a most treasured toy typewriter. I wore lovely clothes, which I absolutely adored, usually from the “Jack and Jill” store. A new outfit for Christmas and another for Easter always arrived. The velvet ones were divine. In summer I couldn’t wait to go to the same cottage each year where Mom wore her black ruched swimsuit and Dad his yellow paisley trunks-I can still see them now…
Here’s the thing. How did they do it? My dad worked in a factory making shoes. He rode a bike to work because he’d had polio as a child but we did have a car which only mom drove. Ed Sullivan welcomed us each Sunday evening to his “really big shew” as we were one of the first families on the street to have a television set. Mom did work out too as a health care aid for a period when I was a preteen. I remember her in her uniform and cap for graduation. She never said so but I knew she was so proud because she had always wanted to be a nurse. We had a large garden at a neighbour’s house around the corner from which we sold the excess to individuals and even to a restaurant or two. Mom sold Regal which again I had to pedal but there were perks from some of my older lady customers like yummy cakes and other special treats.
My parents were always trying to make extra cash somehow and Dad wrote down every penny spent in a wee book in his shirt pocket. Each Friday I was given 10 cents to spend on penny candy on the way from school…and I couldn’t wait to select new sweets every week.
I certainly never thought of us as rich, kids hardly paid attention to such things back then, nor did I feel poor either yet looking back Mom must have been a financial genius! We never did without a thing and now I see just how amazing that was. I never ever felt that we had less than anyone else at school, at church, or anywhere.
Actually, I believe we were rich, very rich indeed! We had more than adequate material things, as I have described, but we had so very much more than that. Your view of wealth is to a great extent perspective. My Dad grew up during the depression and sometimes spoke of eating yesterday’s porridge fried to pretend it was meat. My youngest son grew to almost 5 years of age in an orphanage in Africa. There they ate sadza 3 times each day. Everything is relative. But it’s far more than that, too.
The average cost of a seat at the recent Super Bowl was $5000-$6000 +. That seems so exorbitant to me. Still, for many it is fine. They would simply say that things have changed and yes, they certainly have. Then, beyond that, there are the ultra-wealthy, only .003% of the world’s population, who hold 13% of the total wealth in all the world or $27 trillion. Limitarianism seeks to examine the ethical issues of so few people holding so much. What’s your view?
So I ask, how rich are you? How much wealth have you accumulated? Do you know your worth and how do you measure it? In “It’s a Wonderful Life”, George Bailey’s brother proclaimed that George was the richest man in town…because his friends saved him from financial ruin and prison. Someone else says those who are happy are rich…but notably not visa versa.
“No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.” Henry Ward Beecher.
Your stocks, bonds, retirement plan or your bank account are not proof of wealth no matter how high the numbers. Remember the opposite of poverty is not wealth. It is love. That’s what matters. That’s what counts and accumulates and truly is the only thing in this whole wide world that we leave behind.
It’s not wrong to be rich but the danger is in becoming all consumed by it. In Matthew 19:24, Jesus told the rich man “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” Riches can hinder us and become a detriment if we are not hyper vigilant.
“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:4-5
(I hope you enjoyed this wee stroll down memory lane with me...and were perhaps prompted to take a wee jaunt of your own)