A few days ago I wrote this Facebook status update: “It was a rich weekend in my Consciousness, Health & Healing program. One of the things I took away from the experience was this: Don’t wait until you are faced with a life-threatening illness to live the life you want! Carve out the time and space in your life to do what you love. Live the life you want to live NOW!”
The post received over forty likes and several comments, two of which stopped me in my tracks and made me think. The first was from Theresa, who lives in Missouri. “What if you don’t have money?” she asked, and then added, “That’s needed for life.”
I felt a pang of guilt. I’d never been poor. My mom, a single mother for a while, made huge sacrifices for us kids. I remember a brief period when she’d skip dinner because there wasn’t enough food, though she lied and said she wasn’t hungry. But those days were short-lived. Mom had a college education, teaching credentials, and a fierce will to succeed. I wasn’t sure how to handle Theresa’s comment. My first thought was to delete it. But that was coming from a cowardly place. I knew I needed to respond. I wanted to say something. I sat in silence for a while and considered what I might offer.
“Reach for your inner treasures,” I wrote, “which shimmer and shine more than those beautiful polished stones on your FB cover photo! Riches such as love, compassion, and forgiveness cost nothing and greatly enhance the quality of our lives.”
I felt good about what I’d written, which I hoped would be helpful.
But then, on the heels of that action, I received a similar comment from Veronica. The gist of what she said was that without money, living your dreams is impossible. Again, I considered deleting the comment, but I couldn’t. She deserved an answer.
Here’s what I wrote: “I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’ve never lived in poverty, but I know people who have, and I know it’s possible to rise above your circumstances and this can be done without money. Do you have a library nearby? You could borrow books about personal growth and happiness. I know quite a few rich people who aren’t happy, so money in and of itself, though it’s nice to have, isn’t what makes people happy. Love makes people happy. Compassion makes people happy. So does forgiveness. And laughter. Sunsets make people happy. Walks around the block, hugging someone you love, playing with a child or pet—these things don’t cost money. Serving others makes people happy. There are riches all around us that we sometimes fail to see. When you open yourself to them, your world grows and becomes happier. When you look for happiness and see it in the small things in your life, you experience happiness. If you think happiness is impossible because you’re broke, you will be right. Your thoughts are powerful. Doesn’t it make more sense to imagine a happy life, to reach for it, to see how that might be possible even without money, than to argue for your limitations? If you cling to the idea of your “brokeness” [a term she used to describe her life] as a reason why you can’t be happy, you will win that argument every time. But I believe you can be, do, and have more! God bless you!”
After writing that, I thought about celebrity rags-to-riches stories, how women like Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Demi Moore, Maya Angelou, and countless others transcended impoverished lives. I also thought about how sensitive I am to my environment, how much beauty means to me, and how much harder my life would be living in poverty. Still, I know that steeped within our challenging circumstances are opportunities. I’m not saying it’s easy—I’m saying that no matter what your material circumstances are, look for the possibilities, stretch beyond your comfort zone, pay attention to your thoughts, and don’t put your energy into ideas that keep you down. When you embrace the notion that you have more potential than you think, and you’re open to receiving great things from the Universe, miracles happen!
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