I occasionally lament my Master’s degree, since I went into massive debt to get it and then promptly left my field of study. What I do value from my graduate education is a handful of friends. There are people in my life who wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for graduate school, and I am thankful for them. While I don’t like the idea of paying for my friends, I’d rather focus on my $40,000 friends than my $40,000 piece of paper.
Thinking about my debt disappoints me. I am working on a plan to be debt free (details to follow), but the real point of this week’s post is to focus on wealth. Real wealth. Thinking about money, and loans, and degrees, and friendship, and what it all means… what does it mean to be wealthy, to be rich?
This week, I posted the following status on Facebook:
If I was homeless and asked for anyone, anywhere who was able to take me in and let me live with them, how many of you would invite me to share your home? Please comment or like if you’d be willing.
Within a few hours, the status received likes and comments from 18 people. I think it’s also safe to assume my parents would also take me in, if circumstances made it necessary. That’s twenty people, just at a hypothetical need to stay somewhere. Plus other friends and family who didn’t see the status. All told, I think there are at least thirty people in my life who would immediately take me in if I needed somewhere to go. About one third of these are people I have not actually met in person, only online.
Some of my favorite comments:
“If I had a home, I would share it.”
“I don’t have a spare bedroom, but I would definitely offer you my couch!”
“Of course! Not even a second thought. You can come stay with us.”
“Come on over but I might put you to work.”
“I would let you move in and then plant a bigger garden because I would have more help to take care of it!”
“If I had my own place, you’d be welcome any day.”
These comments, many from near-strangers or people I haven’t seen in years, remind me that I am rich. I am wealthy.
The economy and the stock market and the value of the dollar will go up and down, but friendship and love are two things that are always in high demand with a very high value. I have friends, true friends, who would accept me into their homes and hearts without question or pretense, and for no other reason than to help another human being. Someone they care about, on some level, whether they think of me as a friend, a daughter, a sister, or just a person in need.
When I separated from my ex-husband (the first time), I stayed with a friend from grad school. He didn’t really know me very well, and I don’t think his wife had met me previously to our living arrangement, but they accepted me into their home and I am still touched to my core that they would do that for me. For someone they didn’t know very well. Someone in need. They are now foster parents, which is very fitting!
When I separated from my ex-husband (for real), I moved into my mother’s house. She and my step-dad took me in, no questions, no judgment. The terms of my “rental agreement” were to pay $50 a month in rent, help do chores, and apply for 5 full time jobs per week. I succeeded in finding a full-time job and moved out – that’s where the blog started!
My point is this: money isn’t what makes us rich, or happy. It’s love. That’s the corniest thing ever, I know, but it is so very true. The kindness of strangers, and the love of friends, is what will get us through any trying time. This isn’t to say money wouldn’t help anything – I can think of some things to do when I hit the lottery jackpot! – but monetary wealth cannot be the focus of a happy life.
My new criteria for being wealthy is to be able to say, “no matter what, I will have a place to stay with someone who loves me.”
Things I would do with a million dollars!
- Put half of it in savings
- Pay off my student loans
- Pay off my car
- Pay off my mom’s student loans
- Pay off my sister’s student loans
- Pay off my brother’s student loans
- Buy a house
- Plant a massive garden
- Raise chickens
- Comfortably afford to be a full-time stay-at-home mom and homeschool my children
- Adopt a dog
- If there is money left over… kitten ranch
- Continue living minimally and frugally, because it just feels better
- I’d buy you a monkey. Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?
Tell me the ways you are rich!! And as a bonus, share what you’d do with $1,000,000.