Back in 2008, the Press Democrat asked for readers to write a story about the Christmas season. They chose to print my story in their “Closer to Home” section on December 24, 2008. In the midst of a divorce and a business nearly going under, I had a lot I could complain about. But instead, we stayed positive and today, six years on, I’ve never been more grateful. Hope you enjoy the look back. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
We’re rich!” exclaimed the innocent 5 year old.
It was an honest appraisal from my point of view. The boy who said that was me. And the sound of laughter which my remark inspired still remains with me to this day.
I suppose the reaction of my parents and their friends took me by surprise because I honestly felt I was rich.
I didn’t understand what they all thought was so funny! But something about that remark set them all in hysterics.
A few months ago, when my son Patrick turned 5 years old, I asked him if he thought we were rich.
“Yes, I think so, daddy,” he told me.
“What makes you feel rich?” I followed up.
“Well, we just are.”
I’ve come to realize, he’s right. Just as I was when I was 5 years old.
At nearly 37 years old, I now understand why my parents and their friends laughed at my proclamation. I realize the pressure of being an adult now that I could not then.
Each week, I struggle with bills. I find creative ways to stay on top of a mortgage and pay our taxes. The demands have only been more fierce in the teeth of this financial crisis.
We own a financial planning firm caught in the teeth of this crisis. As hard as I try to remain positive, sometimes it all makes me feel like I’m not rich at all. But then I recall that money cannot make anyone rich. Only wealthy.
Wouldn’t a boy in Pakistan crawling in the dirt, suffering from polio, change spots with me instantly? I wonder what the word “rich” means to him?
Wouldn’t a girl sold into sexual slavery in Cambodia take my place in a second? I’m sure she’d trade my stress and anxiety for her own daily horrors.
Wouldn’t a Russian business owner constantly pressured by graft and government demands wish for the free enterprise system I enjoy?
Aren’t I really wealthy, by comparison, to nearly 99.9 percent of the world?
I believe so.
And that is simply monetary. What about health? As Americans, our life expectancies are some of the longest in the world. Isn’t health as important a commodity as money? Or what of nutrition? In Sonoma County, we live among the best farms in the world. A real cornucopia of organic, fresh, tasty and nutritious food abounds. I wish my waistline could decline in size like my portfolios have during this financial crisis.
But judging from my snug-fitting pants, the so called crisis hasn’t affected my ability to eat well. Can you imagine anyone living in Zimbabwe who wouldn’t enjoy trading pantries with me?
What about our wealth of freedom? I can write what I please without worry at all of government or social censure. Starting a business was a piece of cake. Where else in the world is that a true statement? I’m free to travel, work, exercise, spend, save and do what I please in most every instance. Not so for nearly 75 percent of our world neighbors.
Wealth is just one area where many Americans have lost perspective. Consider our selfish interpretations of right and wrong. Or our heated and uncivil discussions about religion and politics. Americans have lost the attitude of gratitude that made us such a force in the past.
Take a moment and look around like a 5 year old might. Everything around us is so amazing yet so few around us seem very happy about it. Do you wonder why?
If only folks could step back for a moment. Take an inventory of what we do have rather than what we do not have. And then compare our ledger to our friends around the globe. Isn’t each and every one of us very wealthy?
Matthew Everson (CA Insurance Lic. #0C73126) is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative with/and offers Securities and Advisory Services through Commonwealth Financial Network, member www.FINRA.org/www.SIPC.org, a Registered Investment Adviser.
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