With all of America's financial woes lately, I've been thinking a lot about how easy it is to take for granted what you have. So many people have lost jobs (and are still looking), homes, cars and life seems much harder than it used to be. But, what is poverty or wealth for that matter? The United States for the last half-century or more has been the wealthiest nation in the world, so I always have trouble with discussions of America's poverty, especially since I've seen poverty in other countries beyond anything imaginable here.
As I stumbled upon this article tonight, The New Rich: How Much Does It Take?", I thought again about what true wealth or true poverty really is. Growing up I saw extravagant wealth in places like Saudi Arabia where some people literally live in palaces. I also saw in Indonesia, Thailand, Africa, China and several other places, poverty like nothing seen here in the U.S.A. I remember one trip to Indonesia seeing entire neighborhoods filled with shacks that literally had only 3 walls. The open would-be 4th wall faced the dirt road where traffic rushed by and children played with empty coke bottles and trash. It was shocking then and still is to me now.
So, when I read in this article that having a million dollars really means you're middle class, and that in some parts of the country you can't even buy a home with a million dollars, all I can think about is that we're not so bad off after all. In America being poor means you only have 1 car and you can't buy name-brand clothes, but let's face it, that's not poverty in a life-threatening sense. That's just inconvenient.
I submit that true poverty has less to do with money and more to do with quality of life, happiness and personal peace. There have been times when my husband and I were poor by almost every American measure (although in other countries we would've been considered middle class) but I never felt deprived because we had peace and happiness with each other and our children. Our priority was not on having a lot of things, but on having a happy family. Now that we are more established, I don't feel any richer than before. We are just as "rich" now as we were back then. We love each other, love our children and love God.
So, while the world concerns itself with just how much it takes to be rich, I can't help but feeling like they're missing the point entirely. You can have billions of dollars, everything your heart desires, and still be miserable and alone. In contrast, you can have no material things to speak of but be entirely at peace and happy if you have what really matters...those things that DO go with you after this life: family, friendship, love, faith, knowledge and peace of conscience.
Here's my definition of wealth: