These longer stays
allow us to settle into
the rhythm of
daily life with family and to chat with
their neighbors and friends. Because our visits are long and graceful, we are
able to get personalized glimpses into viewpoints held by people in these
We felt privileged
staying in the manicured gardens of gated communities and in million dollar
private homes. Showers felt like rushing rivers, original artwork graced the
walls, food choices at markets were vast and fresh. Carpets were plush, air
conditioners kept the temperature stable and professional housecleaners came
regularly and on time.
But I noticed
something disturbing on these visits.
Neighbors, family and
friends were wealthy beyond a mere comfort level. We attended country club
luncheons, enjoyed yacht harbors and played tennis in locations with an ocean
view. Riding in plush vehicles, we had access to satellite radio, friendly GPS
and hands free phone.
Yet, there was a so
much disgruntlement with their lot in life.
With over $10,000 a
month in retirement income, one man complained that he had no discretionary
spending money. Another woman who lived in an immaculate community without so
much as a gum wrapper on the sidewalks or streets, moaned continuously about how
awful the maintenance and yard work was. One musician friend who was preparing
for his European tour sat with us amid a large private flower garden and
grumbled about smokers.
I wondered where they
“Oh no, not here, it
was in…” and he named a city far away.
Where was all this
sour dissatisfaction coming from? I asked myself. And why?
Markets offered... Everything!
One evening, I sat
with my sister - relishing in our $30 a pound aged-steak dinner, with baked
potato, fresh asparagus from the farmer’s market and imported, pricy chocolate
for dessert. I mentioned to her this observation of deep discontent in the
people I was meeting.
“It makes no sense to
me,” she confided. “You seem so happy, so easy to be with and you don’t have any
of this stuff,” she said as she waved with her arm across her hot tub, Koi pond,
back yard lawn furniture and massive BBQ.
“It’s like the
parameters are skewed. Personal balance is gone. Everyone has so much, but it’s
not enough. Where’s the happiness?”
I reminded my sister
that Billy and I have been traveling the globe for three decades. We have
average less than $30,000 a year. Could I eat more? How many more clothes do I need
to wear? Is there a location I absolutely must see where I have yet to go?
people and see spectacular scenery without it costing nearly as much
as these people spend on maintaining their daily lives…
I started feeling
like I was a walking cliché when I spoke to her about gratitude for what I have
and for my
internal freedom from feeling so much need.
My sister nodded in
agreement, yet we both knew we hadn’t solved this poverty of perspective.
I could only think to
myself that in these situations which I was observing, being poor really IS a
frame of mind.