|Do you sport stickers on your windows? Crayon in your carpet?|
Crumbs in every crack? Scratches on the door? This post is for you!
We're not rich. I don't often focus on that for several reasons. First, I believe in the process of encouraging abundant thinking and grateful living. Second, I feel wary about complaining or being negative when I know we are lucky as it is that my husband has a fulfilling job to cover the bills, that we have a safe home, and that we have healthy food to put on the table. I know that's more than many in this world.
Still, every now and then I feel the swirling doubts, fears, and discontent in my mind. It's hard to be a stay at home mom counting every penny, and not look down the other pathway in the medical field and think, "What if I had chosen a lucrative career instead?"
Maybe the ingratitude slipped into my heart innocuously, on the backs of all those extremely fit, shiny beach bodies in the vacation ads that seemed to have cropped up with the turn of the season recently.
Whatever silently crept into my day, it was there, hanging over me as I took the kids grocery shopping. I felt it as I pulled my sputtering old van into a parking lot and pulled open the squeaky doors. I felt it as I painstakingly calculated unit prices and stacked coupons with mobile rebate offers, noticing as others simply grabbed what they wanted off the shelf and hurried on their way.
I felt it as I got to the checkout and spent a frazzled few minutes trying to gently wrestle 4 shrieking monkeys while keeping an eagle eye on the cashier and the total to make sure everything was perfect. I felt it in the sigh of relief as I ended up 30 cents under my budget. Another successful shopping trip.
By the time I was pushing my full cart out to the van, I let those negative thoughts float freely in my head. We're poor. We're not keeping up with the Joneses. Our house is tiny. The van is going to die any day now. I'm tired of the stress.
Distracted by my self-pity, I let the kids get ahead of me and missed a beat. In an instant, I had unlocked the door without noticing my 3 year old was up by the passenger side. He loves to open the passenger door and climb into the front seat. I jumped around the van, words caught in my throat, and it was too late. With the energy of a 3 year old boy, he flung open the door, slamming it into....
Shit. Yes, a shit was required here.
He slammed it right into some kind of black, shiny, convertible sports car filled with two wealthy looking people. I stood there, my mouth not even able to fall open, watching what was almost like a Matrix-style scene, as the van door bounced off the side of this beautiful car, the thunk reverberating through my head. Holy cow, I thought to myself. The repair for that is going to cost more than our van is worth!
I grabbed my son and stood there, waiting in shock, as the man climbed out of his convertible and turned towards me. "I'm so so sorry. Does it look like there's any damage?" No response from him, so I kept at it. "I should've kept an eye on him! I can't believe this happened. I'm so terribly sorry." Before the man could respond, my 5 year old daughter decided to add her voice to the situation. She rang out loudly, "Wow! You must be really rich! You have a cool car!"
The man was older, maybe in his 40s, and looked pained. He put his hands on his hips, and stared at us all, my 4 monkeys practically vibrating with energy. A huge kid-cart filled with groceries, foam swords sticking out, open snacks, water bottles, and two ergos. All next to my dinged up, scratched up, rusting old car with the missing license plate.
Then he changed my life that day.
"Little Miss. I'm not rich. I'm actually quite poor. Your mom here is the rich one."
He looked at me. "See, my wife and I wanted nothing more than children, but we didn't know it at the time. We sought riches first. We worked hard to be rich and we were rewarded. But, we didn't know what it meant to be truly wealthy. Oh, yes, we had our big home and our vacation home. We had our careers. We had our fancy cars. We didn't have bills to worry about or budgets to follow. We thought we had it all. And now I know we have nothing at all. We are the poorest of the poor."
He waved at my van. "I would trade you my three cars, my big home, my vacation home, my timeshare, my gadgets, my chef, all of it. I would trade you the nice clothes off my back and the shoes I'm wearing, for just one trip in this van, this happy van with stickers all over the windows. I would climb into your old van and drive away a happy man, the richest and wealthiest man in the world."
Then he smiled and said, "Don't worry about that scratch. Just do me one thing and remember how blessed you are today. Don't squander your riches."
I buckled in the children, put in the groceries and climbed into my seat. I started to sigh at the familiar sight of the yellow empty sign on the gas gauge. And then I caught myself. I didn't have money to spare. Or the career I thought I deserved. I didn't have a big, fancy home or a nice car. But as the kids started to sing along to their preschool CD and I heard their loud, giggling voices, I realized I was driving home wealthy.
It's true, we don't have a lot of treasure in our family. But, we do have each other to treasure. I'm forever grateful to that man for his reminder. I hope his words ring true against any negativity that pops into my heart and mind in the future.