What is Wealth?
The dictionary defines wealth as:
- abundance of valuable material possessions or resources
- abundant supply: profusion
- all property that has a money value or an exchangeable value
- all material objects that have economic utility; especially: the stock of useful goods having economic value in existence at any one time
Society usually views the “wealthiest” people in society as those that have the most things or the most financial resources. From third-world countries in Africa and Asia, to the wealthiest nations in the civilized western world, the concept is universal. Recently I read a news blurb that the CEO of Oracle, worth a whopping $36 billion, purchased the island of Lanai with the “pocket change” of $600 million. Whoa! That's wealth!
With such a common definition of wealth being mainly material, it seems that many of us simply brush over the deeper significance of the dictionary's second definition: “abundant supply: profusion”.
But abundant supply and profusion of what? Must the answer be tangible? Does wealth have to be material or economic? Of course not. After all, even the dictionary leaves the meaning as a flexible statement. Wealth can be — and is — so much more than for what our basic thought process allows.
Wealth is abundance, profusion, and prosperity of so many things. Rather than thinking of my own wealth in strictly financial terms, I find it helpful to look at where I have abundance in other ways. For instance, I'm wealthy in:
- Home. I have a roof over my head and a place to live. It may not be anything like the Ritz Carlton, but in terms of what things could be, I'm very blessed.
- Food. Yes, I look for coupons and track my budget when shopping for groceries or eating out. There are times when I see something really enticing at the local specialty store and think how grand it would be to use $45 bottled extra virgin olive oil every day. Instead, I choose a more reasonably priced alternative. Still, I'm able to buy my weekly groceries. I won't starve. This makes me feel wealthy.
While my first two examples of personal abundance weren't supposed to be quite so tangible, in reality they are. I'm a product of modern society. Going back to my initial idea of thinking about wealth in a different way, I find tremendous abundance in:
- Company. I'm surrounded by tremendous people in my life. The friendships and relationships that I hold most dear truly fulfill me more than any sort of material object ever could. I know that my nearest and dearest would do almost anything for me, and I for them. My heart feels full. That, to me, is worth far more than anything that any sort of money can give me. Money is temporary; true friendships are eternal.
- Health. I've had my fair share of health challenges. I've had many surgeries over the past decade. At times, it's been rough going. I remember once telling my husband, “I don't remember what it feels like to feel good anymore.” Those days are over, and I've been surgery-free ever since. For the most part, I'm now a wealth of health. When I look around at the world, even at my immediate surroundings, I'm so much better off than many people I know.
- Spirit and Attitude. I'm also rich in spirit. Even on my worst day, I can force myself to look around, muster up whatever lies deep inside, to remind myself of the blessing it is simply to be on earth. I'm surrounded by the physical beauty of my environment (nature and even man-made architectures and intricacies). Whatever I want to create from inside, whatever those around me choose to create, and whatever comes from above — if I choose to believe it's abundant and awesome, then it is!
All of us are wealthy in so many different ways. One of the greatest lessons is to stop, look around, and truly enjoy all of our blessings and all that life has to offer. A quote by 19th century author and clergyman Maltbie D. Babcock resonates with me:
Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings counting your troubles.
No matter who we are, honestly, all of us have and hold some sort of wealth in our lives. Virtually none of the wealth in my life is financial. In fact, on some days it can be very hard to appreciate all that I have.
But I imagine that the billionaires in the world who can easily write a check to buy an island in an afternoon struggle to appreciate their financial abundance many days too. It takes work and an attitude change to stop and look around and to live out the lesson. With discipline, though, all of us can take the time each day to count our blessings and appreciate the true wealth that abounds in our lives.
So, while my musings won't necessarily help you to build up a hefty savings account or provide strategies for wise investing, I believe that my ideas provide a challenge to rethink and reroute our focus in life away from “just” money.
How much richer would our lives be if we spent even a little bit more time and energy on the non-monetary sources of wealth and abundance that exist all around us?