What Makes a Person Truly Rich?

Sometimes money is not what it’s cracked up to be. I have met some of the poorest rich people and some of the richest poor people. An external focus seems to be the key. Self-absorption does not a lovely person make.

An example of a poverty-stricken rich man was someone I had the occasion to work with several years back. He had more money than a small country, drove a car that would have taken me 10 years to buy on my salary, and lived in a home that required a guard and a guard house. Money alone is not the culprit, of course. Living in Beverly Hills, I’ve met many decent people who are wealthy. However, this man had no way to actually see beyond himself. His world was defined not by giving, but rather by receiving and he received a great deal in the financial department, but not so much where love was concerned. “What I need from you…” he would say and then proceed to give me my marching orders for the day. The moment I was no longer of service to him after eight years of close contact, I never heard from him again. Not one word. Not one thank you. Of course, I’ve never wanted to hear from him again. I take that back. I’d love to hear from him again if he has somehow grown and changed.

On the other hand, I’ve met many people who were poor but full of grace. One, in particular, was a man I knew from our church’s homeless breakfast. He was always kind, considerate, open-hearted, and external. “How are you?” he asked and truly wanted to know. Clearly, he was not successful from the world’s point of view, but he was successful to those of us who had the good fortune to know him. He was “other-centered” as my mother, the sociologist, would say. He turned his attention to others rather than to himself, which was, by the way, a necessary step on the road to self-actualization.

The moral of this story is obvious: true happiness doesn’t automatically come with having plenty of money. Research studies show that having enough money makes life less stressful, but beyond the amount needed for basic needs, money is not much of a factor in real happiness. Instead, those people who reach out to others tend to be the happiest folks in the world, whether they have ten million or ten dollars. Their lives are enriched by their open hearts and minds.

Just as the Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

All I can say is “Amen.”


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