I remember clearly the day I learned my first life lesson about money. I was in third grade. THIRD GRADE! We were doing a class project, and I was paired with the most popular girl in class. Jessica, with the beautiful, long, blonde hair. Jessica, who always wore the prettiest dresses. I was so shy and intimidated by her outgoing personality. Then she asked me a question that changed my life.
“Are you poor?” Three little words that have stayed with me my whole life. Was I poor? I mean, I wore hand-me-down shoes from my two older sisters. My clothes never quite fit right, and they weren’t crisp and clean like Jessica’s. Did this mean I was poor? At that time, my parents had six kids. My dad was in the US Army, and looking back now I know the pay definitely wasn’t enough to support a big family. But was I POOR?
I went home and told my mom what Jessica said that day. I don’t remember the exact words my mom said to me, but I know it made me really think. It probably sounded something like, “Who gives a care what that girl thinks. We have food, you have clothes, and you have a bed to sleep in at night. Not everyone is so lucky.” She was right, of course. There were people worse off than us. Did they consider themselves poor, or did they appreciate what they did have instead of focusing on what they didn’t?
Shiny New Shoes
That year for Christmas I got a new pair of dress shoes. Not hand-me-downs. Not shoes bought second hand. They were shiny black dress shoes from the Family Dollar, and they made me feel so pretty. When school resumed after Christmas break, I made sure I wore them on the first day back. I wore my prettiest dress, pulled my hair back with a pretty barrette, put on my white stockings and finished the look off with my new, shiny black shoes.
I walked into my classroom filled with confidence. Surely Jessica would see my new shoes and realize that I was just like her. I went over to where she was sitting, said hello with my best smile, and prepared for the praise that would surely come when she saw my new shoes.
Jessica didn’t even notice my shoes. She said hi, smiled, and went about her day like nothing major had happened. I moved on, joined my friends and had a great day. I had nothing to prove. I was just like her.
A Life Lesson
The day Jessica asked me that question I learned a valuable life lesson, one that I will pass on to my kids. Being rich or poor is more about perspective than actual money. My kids don’t know how much money I have. They don’t need to know. They know they have a roof over their heads, food on their plates, and a warm bed to sleep in at night. If they can truly appreciate these things instead of focusing on how much money they have, that means I have done my job and I can consider myself a success!
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