Growing Up Rich

I grew up rich – not wealthy. The difference? According to the dictionary, a wealthy person has sustainable wealth and will always be wealthy. Someone who is rich will only be so for a short period of time – until the money is gone. Well, if this definition holds true, then my family wasn’t rich – not by a long shot.

My Dad was a car salesman. He wasn’t the stereotypical kick the tire, sign here, and move onto the next customer type of salesman. He really cared about his customers and if he didn’t think you should buy the car you wanted he wouldn’t sell it to you. Some appreciated this and some didn’t…especially his boss! Dad was rich with integrity and honesty not money.

Our home was like grand central station with a revolving door. There were always one or two extra people seated at our dinner table whether they be friends, neighbors, Dad’s customers or someone just needing a hot meal. Some stayed for dinner while others stayed overnight. Not sure why they wanted to sleep over since the house was small with one bathroom and three matchbox bedrooms each with a closet that held, at maximum, five-hangers. A mattress pulled off the bed and placed on the floor served as the ‘guest’s’ ‘bedroom’ while the ‘bed’s owner’ slept on the box-spring. Not exactly the Ritz Carlton, Holiday Inn or even Motel 6 but a place people wanted to stay.

One of my college friends frequently asked to spend the weekend. I never knew why and never questioned it. During Christmas semester break one year, I received a call telling me to quick turn on the TV. There was my friend being introduced as one of the twelve international debutants for that year. She never told anyone that her family owned one of the largest companies in the world and they consistently appeared on the ‘millionaires’ list. When we returned to school after the break, she again, asked to spend the weekend. I laughed and said, “Of course, your mattress awaits you.” That evening as I lay on my box spring she looked up at me from her mattress on the floor and said, “Do you realize how rich you are?” I guess I looked surprised at this remark so she continued. “My family owns multiple houses. You live in a home. My parents are always jet-setting somewhere seldom knowing or, at least from my perspective, caring what I’m doing. Though at times it might bug you, your parents are interested in every aspect of your life. You sit down together for a home-cooked dinner. I can’t remember the last time we did that as a family. You’re the richest person I know.”

I learned that night that the true measure of ‘richness’ is in health, faith. love, family, friends and laughter and that I was truly living the wonderful life…just like George Bailey.