What is wealth?

Coastline, Broome, Western Australia

My mother advocated generosity.  She believed, generosity of spirit as a personal value was one’s wealth and not one’s bank balance or earning power.  It has been a good moral compass for me and never more when …

It was some years ago.  I met him by sheer chance.  Waiting for a taxi in stifling heat, a young couple cut in before me and nicked my cab.  I waited for the next one and that’s how I met him.  He was initially surly but warmed to conversation.  Travel never tires me, I’m a chatty passenger in a taxi!  I didn’t have a hire car and he offered to show me around town that evening and we set a fee.  Talk flowed easily.  His humour was dry (I do have a soft spot for men who make me laugh).  We were in regular contact from then on.  I take a lot of taxis every month and in the city, I know folks come from different backgrounds.  In this town, it was his manner that made me think he was not local and driving a taxi was not his regular work.  I was right.

Over the next couple of years I got to know him better.  My first impressions were correct to a point.  We enjoyed good food.  We enjoyed the beach.  He introduced me to fine red wine.  He lived in one of the most beautiful places in Western Australia, so naturally, it was easy for me to visit several times a year and we were in daily contact.  As he let his guard down he ’emerged’, the default setting we are all comfortable to be at when we know someone well enough.  Initially I ignored the alarm bells until the obvious became obvious.

A successful businessman once, he was bitter.  His divorce costing him a fortune.  He could not let that go, despite the fact he continued to live well.  He viewed life and people with a jaded eye.  Those who were not in his socio-economic bracket were scorned, and those who were successful generated a jealous response that was uncomfortable to be around.  That dry humour often flipped to sarcasm with ease.  He sliced open people, including his children, with a razor tongue.  I once said to him, he should thank his ex-wife every day ,,, because of their divorce, he was living in a beautiful place and he may not have left the city, otherwise.  He stared at me in absolute disbelief.  “Thank her?”  I knew then we would never have a common ground.  Our philosophies and values were too different.

I always believe people cross our paths for a reason.  We may not appreciate the intent at the time, but hindsight brings wonderful clarity.

I met him at a time in my life when my career had taken off.  The years of hard work and crumbling under the burden of single motherhood were paying dividends.  He was by no means living in poverty, but, because his current lifestyle was less ostentatious than what it was in the city, it made him miserable.  In the city, folks knew him.  He enjoyed  being a prominent member of a prestigious club.  He was an ‘old boy’ of an expensive school.  In his town, he did not have the same status.  He was just a discontented privileged male.

One evening we went to the beach to enjoy the sunset with his city friends; from memory, wine folks from Margaret River.  Champagne and expensive red wine flowed.  Although I was on an open beach, I felt trapped.

I had just come back from working in an indigenous community, the conditions there harsh, hot and humbling.  A place where families are community and community is family.  The elders were so welcoming.  I stood for  hours in heat with ants crawling up my legs and camp puppies with itchy bodies everywhere.  I had never felt more privileged to do the work I do.

I knew then I had met him and walked away at the right time in my life.  He taught me, yes, it is true, money cannot buy happiness especially when you think someone has more than you.  The truth is, someone always will.

As a child I learned generosity of spirit is something that flows and does not accumulate or stagnate.  You can’t stockpile it or make the balance grow.  I know this because my elderly, illiterate but oh so wise nanny used to say, “you cannot repay kindness, you pass it on”.  That is the essence of generosity of spirit.  That to me, is true wealth.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

In response to Daily Word Prompt – Affluent

11 thoughts on “What is wealth?”

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