Madeline has a best friend in her school in Niverville. Apparently they play together every recess. They alternate who gets to decide what to play: if Madeline picks the game for the two short recesses, her friend picks the activity for the longer lunch recess. And vice versa. They have it very well planned. Last year their big thing was writing comic books. Madeline was the artist and her friend wrote the text, because Madeline fully admits that her handwriting is messy.
I am SO glad she has a good friend here. They get along so well together. Almost annoyingly so. When we got back to campus this summer I took Madeline and her best friend to see Beezus and Ramona at the cheap theatre in the city. I think we were gone almost 5 hours by the time we got to Winnipeg, had lunch at McDonld’s did the movie, picked up some ice cream, and then drove home. Those girls talked and laughed non-stop, and when the 5 hours were done, they said they needed more time together to really play. I, on the other hand, was more than happy to drop her friend off and have some peace and quiet! But boy oh boy! The house that her friend lives in!
Now Niverville, where the kids go to school, is a fast-growing bedroom community to Winnipeg. It doesn’t even have an intersection with a streetlight, but outside the one-street core of the town are streets upon streets of brand-new huge houses. The majority of the people in town live in brand-new, or nearly brand-new houses. So I expected that when we picked up Madeline’s best friend. But, wow. Her friend lives on the fanciest street with the biggest houses in the whole town! I’m sure my jaw dropped when I first pulled up.
And so I’ve been thinking a bit lately: what are her parents going to think when they drop off their girl to play at our house? Ahem… I mean our trailer. Our less than 800 square foot, 35 year old trailer, which could probably fit quite nicely in their garage!
I know this is just a stage of our life, but it’s hard not to feel a bit embarrassed by our teeny-tiny old trailer and the rather primitive conditions in which we sometimes find ourselves. Since we moved here, occasionally I’ve found myself telling people about the nice big house we used to live in, just so they know we have lived “better”. But, really, who cares?! How judgmental is it for me to: a) presume people are judging me, and b) think that living in this old thing is something to be embarrassed of in the first place? And, where that whole thought process lead me to was this question: what is true wealth?
Yes, we have live in this old trailer, but we have no debt. And we’re living out a plan that will get us through this uber-expensive seminary experience with still no debt. So what is wealth? Is it living debt-free? I’m sure all of those people in Niverville with the big houses aren’t debt-free. But they sure appear to have a lot more wealth than Marc and I do. Is wealth connected to your capital worth? But if your things aren’t paid off, then it’s not really your capital… What is wealth? Is it being free from the fear that so often accompanies our thoughts of money and our financial future? You can have all the money in the world and still have those fears. So what is true wealth?
Some days I look at how Marc and I uprooted our lives and sold that great house and quit our jobs and decided to drop all of this money for seminary which is really leading us to rather low-paying jobs, and I think, “Huh? You did what?!” But, if I’m honest, I don’t think that way very often, and usually it’s when I think about the dollars and cents of it all. Or maybe it’s “dollars and sense”. Because in terms of dollars, it doesn’t make sense.
However, in terms of passion and calling and being the people we (Finally! It only took us each 30 years to figure it out!) were meant to be, it is perfect.
And maybe that’s what true wealth is. It’s about being content with yourself, who you are, and where you’re going. And, in terms of the money… it’s being content with your financial situation. Whether it’s the mortgage-free big house, the big house with the big mortgage, the little house with the big mortgage, or the little trailer in southern Manitoba that cost the same as your vehicle… It’s about being content but also being willing to challenge yourself. And, especially, it’s about not comparing yourself to others or finding your value in your things.
Because true wealth is hard to define. And when it comes down to it, I really think it is linked less to the amount in your bank account or what’s sitting on your property and more with how you feel about it all.
We’re into year two here at Prov. And I can honestly say that I love it here. I love how our family is growing, and the things that Marc and I are learning. (I would even go so far as to say I love the stress that has made Marc start to go grey above his ears and me to retain weight around the middle. But, I’m going to put that in parentheses, because I’m not sure I really love it.) I even love this tiny old trailer. It’s cozy. Maybe not all that warm, but it is cozy. (And if the mice can not poop in all of my kitchen drawers this winter, I will love it all the more!)
Do I feel like I have true wealth? Yes I do. Would my opinion change if our financial situation changed? I’m not sure. I hope not. What I do know is that I want to strive to live engaged and intentional with my environment, but not have it control my sense of wealth/contentment. I’d like to have common sense but grace if we ever got ourselves into financial trouble, and I wouldn’t want to be annoyingly proud if we ever ended up with money.
So, I would really like to discuss this. What are your thoughts on “true wealth” and how hard do you find it is to feel like you have true wealth in whatever situation you find yourself?