We measure wealth in many ways

Judith Victoria Hensley Plain Thoughts

October 25, 2013

In the United States of America, most of us have more than we need. Many consider themselves to be poor, and might be by U.S. standards, but by global standards, even our poor have wealth.

According to globalissues.org, more than a billion people cannot read or even sign their name. I wonder how few people in the United States have this problem?

When I was growing up in the city, Appalachians were often made fun of and referred to as poor, dumb and hillbillies. The way our city counterparts judged intelligence was by formal education, and yet if you brought any number of them to the mountains and expected them to know anything about self-sufficiency, wildlife, flora and fauna or survival skills, they would be absolutely clueless. The way they judged wealth depended on what kind of job a person’s father had, the car the family drove and the house you lived in. Most of them, having never been to Appalachia, couldn’t imagine that our families owned land, inherited land, cherished land and most of the Appalachians owned a piece of it back home.

We measure wealth in many ways.

If my wealth was only reflected in my bank account, I would be considered a pauper, by many Americans. Yet, I do have one, unlike billions of people in the world. It is incredible to realize that anyone on any culture can survive in less than $1 a day, but according to information I found at Buckner.org, 1.3 billion people exist at this level. About 50 percent of the world’s population, or over 3 billion people, live on $2.50 dollars or less per day. Figure it out and that comes to $75 per month and less than $1,000 per year. Around 80 percent live on $10 or less per day which amounts to $300 per month, and $3,650 per year.

My house is a modest three bedroom structure with a basement and an attic within the city limits. Some of my wealthier friends have referred to it as a cottage. Yet, only 65 percent of Americans own their home. I am very near having mine paid off, but many who would consider my home meager will die owing the bank for their home.

Americans have gotten caught up in the “accumulation of stuff” mentality, yet own very little of what they have and owe a great deal – often more than the actual value of their possessions. Like our government, we have become a society that spends more than we make, and many owe debts they can never hope to pay off. It is ridiculous for banks to approve loans for houses far bigger than a person’s income should allow. It is crazy for a person to buy such an expensive car that they can’t afford to put gasoline in it or keep it insured. Yet, these things happen all the time.

In my opinion, this is true poverty. When we owe more than we can pay, regardless of how fine those items are that we use daily, we are poor and setting ourselves up to always be a slave to debt. This also brings about poverty of spirit in which a person doesn’t even appreciate what they have because they are always wanting more. There is a poverty mindset that swallows people up and tells them what they have and who they are will never be enough and they spend their lives focusing on their lack instead of their abundance.

I had hoped to be debt free when I retired from teaching. Because of an unexpected necessity of an early retirement, that didn’t happen. Yet, I am in much better shape than a lot of people who have been married and had two incomes for decades.

If I dwell on those things, it could drive me to distraction. I choose to focus on the positive things in my life. If I look around my house, I don’t need another single piece of furniture. I would like to have one of those electric artificial fireplace heating units for my living room, but it is a wish, not a genuine need.

As a matter of fact, most of my “to do” and “to get” lists are wants instead of needs.

I love clothes and shoes. I have enough for myself and a couple of other people. Seriously. I don’t even like most of the newer styles. I am more of a traditional, conservative dresser and now that I am not getting up to go teach every day, I need far less than I did while I was working. I am wealthy in clothes.

I have more volumes of books than I could possibly have spare time to read in a year. I have the technology I need to make my life simpler and stay in touch with the rest of the world. I would like to have a professional camera, but the one I have serves its purpose well enough. I am almost never bored from lack of available diversions in my home.

These things that I possess do not comprise my personal wealth. I have a good education, something that sets me apart from billions of human beings who did not have this privilege and many who cannot read or write because they have been denied this opportunity. Most American children have become lazy students capable of far more than they accomplish, just because they do not appreciate the gift of learning opportunity provided for them. Statistically, we are falling lower and lower in the ranking of educational success compared to other countries around the world. If a person can read, write, and take care of their personal finances and records, they are wealthier in this area than millions around the world.

Those in good health and those who have access to good health care are richer than they realize compared to the world population where millions die every year for lack of medical attention, or lack of funds to get treatment they need.

One look at me and most of the population in the United States and it is easy to see that we are not going without food. Yet almost 900 million people in the world are undernourished. If our cabinets and refrigerator are stocked with food, we are wealthy.

I consider family and friends to be among my personal wealth and I have been blessed abundantly in those areas. There is no way to set a ceiling on the worth of the many cherished people in my life. I am a wealthy woman if calculated in relationships.

My greatest wealth is of spirit. I have the freedom to worship God in public and in private while millions of people do not. By faith, I can fellowship and communicate with the Creator of the Universe – the one who owns the earth, the moon, the stars and all the wealth therein. I call Him Father and He calls me His child. I have access to the riches of the universe through His love and abundance in my life. All that I have or accumulate in this life is because of His favor, His blessings, and His limitless abundance. The Bible promises that He has prepared a place for us in eternity, in His presence, and all of us are invited to share it equally. Imagine that – a place where we are not judged or valued by our personal wealth, but by His!