Recently, I was swimming in my bathtub, reading a book called Unbinding the Heart by Agapi Stassinopoulous. She recounts a conversation she had with her mother about wealth and richness and the difference between the two concepts. It seems of particular interest as we navigate this season of gifts and celebration, and as we think about the many, many, many ways that many, many, many of us have so, so, so, so much to be grateful for.
So I thought I'd share:
"'Mummy,' I asked her, 'are we rich?'
In a matter-of-fact tone that I can still hear, confident in her knowledge, she said, 'We are very, very wealthy.' And then she gave me the Talk - not the sex talk but the wealth talk.
'Being rich means you have a lot of money. Being wealthy means you value the gifts you have and you develop them. Wealth means that you have everything you need, and that you share it, too. It means being generous with what you have, not living in fear of losing what you have, and not comparing it to what anyone else has.'
Her passion was palpable as she spoke about these ideas.
'Having intelligence is wealth. Being curious about life is wealth. Ethics is wealth - it is the integrity you have in all your relationships. Having friends who care for you and love you, and whom you care for and love, that is wealth. Taking care of yourself and being healthy is wealth, and so is having respect for yourself and your fellow human beings. Being educated, having a thirst for learning, being able to go to good schools with inspiring teachers who will help cultivate your talents, is wealth too - the most important kind, because without that, it really doesn't matter what else you have.' She went on: 'The arts and culture are wealth. The artists of the world are all wealthy. They have gifts that money can never buy. And if you know how wealthy you are, then you can go make money - but only if you want to.'
In her enthusiasm, she started writing things down for me on a piece of paper. She wrote the words Values and Ethics and Responsibility and Inquiring Mind. I was nine, but that didn't stop her. She was letting me know that I need never feel intimidated or make myself less because other people had bigger bank accounts or cars or houses. She was infusing me with her wisdom, raising me to stand tall in myself and meet life with confidence and a generous spirit. She knew that then I would feel no sense of lack, but be enriched by all the people and experiences that came my way."
This got me to thinking about how wealthy we really are and how I have defined wealth in the past, and I decided to re-work that definition. I created one more personal for me, and definitely more in line with my values.
My old definition of wealth:
Wealth is when you have such an abundance of physical money that you can focus on helping all of creation, not just yourself.
My revised definition of wealth:
Warm in the winter, cool in the summer. Being held, receiving comfort. Holding others, providing comfort. Taking joy in learning and making it a priority. Community - creating it, participating in it, celebrating it. Being unafraid when I'm sharing my gifts, sharing joyfully and without hesitation. Hugging. Kissing. Dancing.
Would love to hear what you think!