It's not our possessions that make us rich

By KRIS SHEARER Columnist Published:

"We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without." -- Immanuel Kant

All I've heard on the news, from the government, and from individuals since 2008 is how "awful" the economy is. And, yes, I know we've all had to tighten our belts and spend more cautiously. And, though I know it's not politically correct to say so, I am a bit skeptical about how "awful" things really are. A few reasons why:

Every time I get groceries, the parking lot is full and I have to wait in line for quite some time. And people are buying soda, cigarettes, candy, junk food and other things we don't really "need."

When my husband and I went out to eat recently (something we do about once every six weeks or so, not every week as many do), there was such a long waiting line at the first place that we went to a second … and found a long line there too.

I hear people every day, some on public assistance, complaining they can't pay their bills or find a job, showing off their tattoos while holding a cigarette in their fingers and bragging about how drunk they were the night before, or how they'd spent 30 bucks on lottery tickets and didn't win anything. Where'd all the money for those things come from?

The most recent event that got me thinking was Valentine's Day. One study said that Americans, many of them TEENAGERS, would spend over 11 BILLION dollars on Valentine's Day gifts.

Now, let me say that I think love is important. I wouldn't have stayed married for more than three decades if I didn't. I love my husband very much, but I don't show him that only one day of the year. And I cannot conceive of spending the kind of money some people do, especially when so many claim they can't find employment, when so many are on welfare or unemployment.

My husband and I did small things for each other on Valentine's Day this year but, really, if he'd done nothing, I would still know I was loved. All day long that day kids asked what I "got" for Valentine's Day. I told them I got roses (and I LOVE them!) because that's what they wanted to hear. What I really wanted to tell them though, is that I got 30 years of -- drawing my bath and tossing in eucalyptus oil because Kim knew my yearly bronchitis was making me feel awful; keeping his favorite Throwback Dew in the house even though I'm trying to quit and it's temptation; having his shoulder to cry on and his powerful chest to bang my angry fists against when I was informed of my mother's suicide; taking his dinner to him in the living room because his favorite team just went in to overtime; 2 children, 9 dogs, and so many laughs they're etched forever in the corners of my eyes; angry words, accusations, and threats soon followed by vibrant apologies, tears, and forgiveness; patience and impatience; choosing to love and stay even when walking out the door, bags packed, might have been easier; going to the pound yet again because I wanted to rescue another (even though we all knew he'd fall in love with the dog!); sitting in the freezing cold even though I hate sports because Kim got free tickets and he really wanted me to go; sitting through "Wicked" a second time because he knows how much that play speaks to me … all of these DAILY, seemingly inconsequential things ... that's what life is about, not chocolates (though I'd never refuse them, of course) or flowers or cards … those things are nice, but it's those daily reminders of care and devotion that really matter to me.

Like Kant, I believe we define "being rich" merely by how many possessions we own. We think we "need" things that we really don't. And, in the midst of what we think we are lacking, we fail to see what we already have.

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