If someone asks you whether you are rich, what standard of measurement do you use for your answer?
by Pilar Griffin
Have you ever been asked if you are a wealthy person? If today someone approaches you with this question, what will your answer be? And more important, what guideline will you use to arrive at your conclusion? Being wealthy or rich is usually measured by the amount of money and material resources that a person possesses. Is this also your standard? Growing up in Costa Rica, with a single mother, money was often scarce and constantly an issue. However, I can’t recall even once when somebody asked her for a loan or a donation and there was a negative answer. There was always something to be shared with others. ‘Whatever we have is to be used by the one who needs it,’ my mother often said. I witnessed my family’s daily economical challenges and sacrifices.
Expressions like ‘there is no money to pay the bus fare to go to school tomorrow’ or ‘we have run out of sugar and there is no money to buy more’ were not at all uncommon in my home. So, since a very early age, I discovered that money plays a very important role in life, mainly to satisfy basic needs. Twenty years later, I define money as a medium of exchange for goods and services. This medium often acts as a link with the three things that I value most in life: family, education and faith. So, I have come to appreciate money. Money has allowed me to care of my family, to provide food, clothes and offer them access to health and education. It also has been a key element in my education. No matter how many scholarships I received, money for books and transportation was required. So thanks to the presence of this medium, today I hold a degree in education. Believe it or not, money has also been part of the practice of my faith.
Alms giving and sharing are pillars of charity and love. It is thanks to money that I could buy toiletries for prisoners and biscuits for orphans. I could also cook meals for the elderly and homeless. However, the accumulation of excessive wealth has never been a priority. Usually when we don’t have money we dream of obtaining it with the generous and noble idea of using it for humanity. Sadly, in most of the cases, we start satisfying our own personal needs that frequently turn into greed. Pretty soon we become selfish and addicted to more and more money and goods. Fear of falling into that cycle stops me from developing an obsessive desire for monetary wealth. I prefer to be poor but nevertheless always have plenty to give, like in my growing-up years.
I had the opportunity to emigrate to the US, after I got married, and the most challenging thing that I had to face was not the language or the absence of my family, it was consumerism and by default materialism. People in general are compulsive buyers and often of things they don’t need. There is a magnetic force that extracts all their critical thinking and attracts them to purchase and acquire. If we observe from outside we will see that in each person there is a desire to fulfill a need or an empty space. Here is where materialism finds its way. The emptiness usually is jam-packed by possessions, assets and money. No, money is not a problem. The problem is our attitude towards it. Has it become a means or a goal? I am rich, not because of my bank balance but because everyday I receive and give more and more gifts; gifts of life, love, care, respect and friendship. How much money can you pay to purchase those gifts? The things I value the most in life don’t have a price!
NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.