Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are you wealthy?

Am I wealthy? My most immediate response would be not just “no” but “HECK NO.” But then, it’s all relative isn’t it? Sixteen ounces of water is worth a few pennies coming out of your tap; it’s worth $1.39 in a bottle at the local convenience store; it’s worth $3.50 inside the gate at the airport terminal: it’s worth every single dollar he’s ever saved to a man who is thirsting to death.

Since the current economic times have been tight, I think many of us find ourselves reconsidering our spending habits (I know I am) or feeling like maybe we don’t have enough or make enough money. Many have lost their jobs and are having to dip into savings, and many, me included, have lost quite a bit of their IRA or 401K. Tony and I say every year that next year will be the year we’ll build a new house on our property and get out of this old and way too small house with only one bathroom. But…we have a solid roof (well, mostly solid until a big wind blows off more shingles) over our head, Tony has a good job, and we always have food on the table. Our kids have everything they need and most of what they want.

Consider this: Yesterday morning Ruby was in a really chatty mood and felt like talking more about her life in Ethiopia. I just get this kind of info in small bits when she’s ready to talk, but she’s talking more frequently now and I’m piecing together what her and Elizabeth's life in Ethiopia was like. Yesterday she told me about how in Ethiopia she didn’t have any shoes when she was with Amari (her biological mommy). She said her and Elizabeth’s feet got burned and were bleeding because the ground was hot and things got poked in them that had to be picked out (maybe glass) because they were walking, walking, walking and had no shoes. She said Amari couldn’t buy shoes because she had to use the money for food. But sometimes there was not enough money for food. And she told me that she and Elizabeth and Abiya and Meeta (other family members) stayed to take care of the home while Amari went away and tried to get food. She also told me that Amari got her a white dress one time and it was pretty but she couldn’t wear it when it was a muddy day. If it was a muddy day she had to wear the “pink skirt clothes.” Those were her only clothes – no shoes. Then she acted out how Amari hand washed all the clothes and hung them on a line to dry.

I know times are hard for a lot of people in the U.S. right now, my family included. But will we ever be faced with looking into the face of our starving children or trying to comfort them because they have burned and bleeding feet because we can’t provide shoes? I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Amari to spend four years of her life watching her daughters grow into beautiful little girls and then come face-to-face with the reality of looking at their beautiful faces for the very last time, trying to memorize every feature, and walking away in hopes that they could have a better life – with plenty of food, clothing, and a home. The idea of what she must have been going through haunts me.

When I start to get worried about the economy, our finances, or if we’re ever going to build that new house, I look at the faces of my beautiful daughters and try to imagine Amari struggling to get food and shoes for her daughters; or I imagine what it would be like to be a woman in China, without a voice to speak out for herself, forced to put down her baby girl and walk away because a government dictates that she can have only one child and her husband dictates that she must have a boy.

Am I wealthy? I am not wealthy by most standards, but I am more than wealthy by my own.


Lori S said...

Beautiful post!
I grew up with little, so I find it hard as an adult to justify buying expensive 'things'. We considered buying a bigger home since our family has expanded, but, instead built an extra room to accomodate our many children...then purchased a bigger car so we could all travel together and spend time with each other(which I did excitedly, but not without guilt!!). We have chosen this--I can't imagine not even having the choice to purchase food or water or shoes for your children. My heart aches for your daughters' birthmom and my daughters' birthmom. I hope and pray that their life is easier now and that they find peace in knowing that their girls are being taken care of and being loved by their new families!
This is a great reminder for me to be more content with the 'much' I've been given!

Linda and Greg said...

Rebecca, girl, this brought tears to my eyes. I can't even imagine having to give up my children or tell them they couldn't eat today because there was no food. That's why we decided to sponsor a child that lives in those types of conditions. Adopting is not an option for us but, at least, we're doing something. And, Greg & I, like Tony and you, have been faced with the reality of the economy and our financial situation forcing us to sit down and think about what is REALLY important for our boys and our family. Wealth isn't always about money. And in the important sense, money doesn't even come into play. We are wealthy, too, in that sense and I wish more people realized the true meaning of wealth and true success.

Sandee said...

Oh Rebecca true so true... wonderful. What a gift our daughters are, to remind us of what is true.

I must read this to my sons.

Sandee said...

The more I think about this, the more it gets me. I hope you don't mind, I posted about it on my blog and linked to Ruby's story.

What a gift we have.

Rebecca Smith said...

Sandee, I'm happy that you linked to the post!

Chris said...

Wow what a beautifully thought provoking post!!!! I have thought of that myself many times over the last few months. Every time I say how bad things are I am quickly reminded when I look at Parker and Helena of how worse off the world is. Thank you for sharing this post with all of us and for the reality check as well!!