I've been thinking about this a lot--how much is enough? And while other bloggers have tackled this question recently (like Leo at Zen Habits), I am interested in finding out how I felt so rich as a kid when I know now how little money we had. How was it that it felt like more than enough, when by most people's standards, it was far less?
I was talking to my mom about this the other day, and while I remember the occasional times my parents said that we couldn't buy something, I never remember them making a big deal out of it. It was never the end of the world. And so I guess it wasn't the end of my world, either. I told my mom the other day that despite some tight times, I never, ever felt deprived. In fact, I remember my childhood with great color, texture and richness.
I do think that some of that had to do with how much unconditional love I felt from my parents as a child, but I also recall taking joy in the smallest things. Going to the lake to feed bread crumbs to the ducks, or reading a favorite book in a tent pitched in the backyard. Or the handmade swings my mom painted for me and my brother that hung for years under the old live oak tree.
Now that I'm an adult, I want to make sure that I stay on the path of feeling rich without a ton of money. What were those ingredients? Here are some ideas:
- Family and friends come first. This may seem obvious, but it really makes a difference. Feeling as though you are giving time, attention and affection to your friends and family and receiving it in return is the surest path toward a feeling of true wealth.
- Being allowed to find what you love and then having time to do it. Fortunately for my parents, I was never much interested in dance or sports, but instead found the relatively cheap activity of reading my greatest pleasure. (Although at the rate I blasted through those books, we went to the library instead of the store.) I loved that my parents accepted that that was my interest and didn't try to push me into something they wanted to see me doing, like I think so many kids today are. I found what I loved, and I was accepted for it. Today, I think that means you need to find friends and loved ones who support you for who you are and what you're interested in. If you're acting to impress someone else, you'll always feel like something is missing.
- Finding wonder in the daily world. This one seems hard for so many people, and I wonder why that is. I am constantly amazed that the world is the way it is, that my dog seems to be able to understand English words, that that paint color matcher at Home Depot is so accurate! There are marvels all around, and it's important to appreciate what an amazing thing the world really is.
- Being thankful for everything you do have. You know, the Christmas ads have started the earliest they ever have, and I for one am indignant about the attempt to storm right through Thanksgiving. Christmas lost its magic for me about the time I became an income-earning adult and realized what a mad consumer push it is. Thanksgiving is the holiday that now has the most spiritual resonance for me, as it is the time where I reflect on how lucky, fortunate and blessed I am to have good health, good friends and a loving family (and dog!) Even if everything else is crap, if you are healthy, you have riches already beyond your imagining. We live in a time where we live longer, better and healthier than at any time in the past, and we have more opportunities to use our healthy bodies for good work and service than ever before. Even if your health is not ideal (as mine has not been this week), you can find gratitude for the capabilities you do have, and for the creative mind you've been given that can help you to maximize your abilities. When sickness strikes or a family member falls ill, do you ever give thanks for a giant TV? It's fine to have a giant TV, but it's not fine to think that it means anything more than what it is. It's just an electronic box. That's it.
And there you have it. If he could feel rich during the Depression, anyone can feel rich today.
Campbell: I came back from Europe as a student in 1929, just three weeks before the Wall Street crash, so I didn't have a job for five years. There just wasn't a job. That was a great time for me.
Moyers: A great time? The depth of the Depression? What was wonderful about it?
Campbell: I didn't feel poor, I just felt that I didn't have any money. People were so good to each other at that time.