In his book, Drink Deeply with Delight, Howard Hanger (an ordained Methodist Minister) shares a dialogue between a little girl and her mother at bedtime. The little girl asks, “Are we rich, Mommy?”
Her mother replies, “Why do you ask?” The little girl says, “Because the kids in kindergarten said it was cool to be rich. That rich people had more fun.”
Her mother says, “The children are absolutely right.” Then she adds, “But there’s a big problem with being rich. You gotta be rich in the right way.” Her mother goes on to explain some of the different ways you can be rich. “There’s money-rich, family-rich, laughter-rich, love-rich.” She asks her little girl, “Can you think of any other ways to be rich?”
The little girl says, “There’s friend-rich. And chocolate-chip-cookie-rich.”
I love that little dialogue. It took me back to my childhood when I became aware that some kids in school were richer than I was (and a couple seemed poorer). The fact that we weren’t materially rich always hit me at Christmas time. I would make a long list of the things I wanted, but I knew I wouldn’t get everything—or even the thing I wanted the most. One year I wanted a 22-inch Mary Hartline Doll the most. (She was the majorette on the TV show “Super Circus,” a popular kids’ show in the 50’s when I was a kid.) My mother gently tried to prepare me for the reality that I wouldn’t be getting that big doll I wanted. But on Christmas I did get a Mary Hartline Doll—only it was the 7-inch version. When I returned to school after Christmas, I learned that some of the girls in my class had gotten the BIG Mary Hartline Doll for Christmas. They were richer than I was. Or so I thought so back then.
But as I got older, I gradually became aware of how rich my growing up years really were. I was land-rich (on our small farm we had 22 acres of lawns, fields, and woods to play in.) I was parent-rich (both my parents loved us, took care of us, and loved each other too.) I was sibling-rich (I had an older sister and two older brothers—my constant companions to play with, learn from, and get into mischief with.) And I was pet-rich (dozens of cats, dogs, and parakeets populated and enriched my childhood.)
As an adult, I am now aware of my wealth in other ways. I am education-rich (from my James A. Garfield Elementary School years, through Regina High School and Notre Dame College years, and my graduate years at Indiana U. and Duquesne U., and all the many workshops, conventions, retreats, I’ve been privileged to participate in.) I am health-rich… faith-rich… friend-rich… ministry-rich… and the list goes on and on.
Today you might want to reflect on this question: What parts of your life make you rich? (As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, some of you might say “I am mother-rich” … Or if you are a mother, you might say, “I am child-rich.”)
Then: how might you show your appreciation for the wealth you have received? For example, if you are sibling-rich you might want to connect with a sibling today. If you are friend-rich, call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Just tell them you were reflecting on how rich you are and THEY came to mind! If you are a-few-extra-dollars-rich, you might want to donate some of them to a food bank or some other organization whose mission you support. In whatever ways you find yourself rich today, give thanks to God—and share your riches with others.
PS #1: A Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there! May your day be blessed with joy!
PS #2: Reminder: I’m giving a zoom retreat on HOPE May 24-29, sponsored by Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, KS. Check their website for details: https://heartlandspirituality.org. I hope to “meet” some of you then!
PS #3: Some of you received a post on Friday listing the last nine reflections on my blog. That post was a glitch… Sorry. As some of you noted, my new blog used a small font and light print. I found the way to remedy that. I hope you find the bigger and darker font easier to read. All the reflections are in this newer form.
The music and the words for this hymn go back to the 18th and 19th Centuries. The song is called “For the Beauty of the Earth” and is sung here by Audrey Assad. I like the visuals which highlight the riches of creation as well as the riches of family and friends.
I wish you many blessings today! And I hope some of you will share your thoughts on this reflection below.