Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. Epictetus
As I sit here in the living room of our 3 bedroom apartment, I am thinking about how good things are. I have a loving wife who supported me through the worst times and refused to let me give in to my own horrifying thoughts when I battled depression. I have four incredible children, two amazing sons-in-law, two equally amazing daughters-in-law, two intelligent and cute granddaughters, and, of course, my little doggie who I call Ubbalo. I have a job and I have the opportunity to help children learn math. We have food in the refrigerator, some money in the bank, a retirement nest egg that is waiting for us, two cars, and some great friends.
And yet, sometimes the lashon hara (evil tongue, in Hebrew) takes over and clouds my view of gratitude. Why don’t I have a job that pays like his? Why did I not become a doctor so I could have more money? Why do we live in this non-luxury apartment when other people have a home, a cottage, and a condo? Why don’t I drive a luxury car? Why does my wife drive a car that is 10 years old? Why don’t we have more of this or that? Why can’t we take a cruise every year? Why can’t we take long vacations to places we would like to see? And the beat goes on…
This kind of thinking is not only useless but also damaging. The more I think like this, the more my brain practices thinking like this and the easier it is for me to re-create these thoughts. All of the things that make my life great are hidden behind a cloud of envy, comparisons, keeping up with the Joneses.
As Epictetus said, wealth comes not from having great possessions but from having few wants. There are very few things that I want, things that are missing from my life. Life is great and I am thankful every day for my gifts. Since I always compare life to movies, I think about George Bailey from It’s A Wonderful Life when his brother Harry toasts him as the richest man in the world. Or Mr. Holland’s Opus when Glenn Holland sees all of the lives he touched as a teacher even though he was not rich and famous. And, of course, Tevye singing If I Were A Rich Man. But I really don’t think being rich would really make Tevye a happy man. He had his wife and daughters, his horse and wagon, his business, his rebbe, his friends, and his God. Yes, times were hard in Anatevka. But, I belong in Anatevka, tumble-down, work-a-day Anatevka, dear little village, little town of mine.
Practice gratitude. Be thankful. Appreciate your gifts.