But my greatest fear of sending my girls to an environment like that is that they'll grow up thinking they're poor.
If we were to live in a ritzy suburb, we would be in the bottom half of incomes there. We would live in a more modest home than the girls' peers. We would drive an older car, with a less-impressive name. The girls would not have the same electronics as their peers. They would not jaunt off to tropical destinations and tour foreign countries on their Spring breaks. They would not have the same things as their wealthier classmates. And they would likely feel themselves lacking. They would likely conclude that they were unfortunate, and poor. And this is so far from the truth.
Now we are not wealthy by Boston's income standards. There is a great deal of money in this city. And if you know how to spot it, you see it everywhere. (It's not as easy to spot as it was living in Houston. But that's another post for another time.) But Boston provides a poor yard stick for measuring wealth.
Here's how I know we are wealthy:
- We're not one payment away from losing the roof over our heads.
- We don't have to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
- We don't have to choose between paying our electric bill or our phone bill.
- When we're cold, we can turn up the heat.
- When we're hungry, we can buy food.
- If we lose our mittens, we can buy new ones.
- When we outgrow snow boots, we can buy bigger ones.
- We can afford reliable transportation to get everyone to work and school.
- We can afford to fill the gas tank, even as gas prices climb.
- We can afford safe, reliable childcare for our children so we can show up for work every day.
We may grumble about some of these costs, but it's not really a question of whether or not we can provide what our family needs. We may wish we had a bigger house with an actual garage, but that's a want, not a need. And it's a luxury. Our children don't really know what hunger is. Nor do they really know what it is to be constantly cold. The addition of one extra mouth to feed does not plunge our family into financial insecurity.
I want my children to grow up knowing that this simple fact of having their basic needs met on a daily basis is a great blessing, and that we are part of the world's most fortunate and wealthy inhabitants. Because, regardless of what they see on TV, and regardless of hearing "we won't buy that, it's too expensive", there is nothing they really need. And that makes them wealthy.
Of course, the next thing they need to grow up understanding is that wealthy people need to help people that aren't. But that's another post for another day...
I pray that you'll recognize your own wealth, and give thanks for it as well.