MARCH 9, 1955
NEW YORK—Among a group of people the other night of which I was a part there was a discussion as to what riches really are. One of those present said that when she was young she had lived in a small town in which her father was a banker and the richest man in town, so by comparison with others in that town they were rich. But when she moved away from the town she found she was not rich at all.
It seemed to me that that definition of riches, which is one purely of comparisons (you are rich if you have more than the people with whom your lot in life happens to be cast), is most unsatisfactory.
As I think of the people I know, I consider that those are rich who are doing something they feel worthwhile and which they enjoy doing. They seem to be so content with their possessions as not to be constantly striving to accumulate more of the kind of things that only money can buy and which they may see in greater abundance in homes around them.
I thought of one young woman I know who was brought up in moderately comfortable circumstances. Now she does her own work, except for a cleaning woman who helps with the cleaning and washing once a week. She has a husband and two fairly young children, but she and her husband manage to keep their intellectual interests and to have the things they really enjoy.
She has achieved an apparent indifference and lack of desire for acquisition of certain types of things which it costs money to have. She does not long for expensive clothes, or much more elaborate housing, or the kinds of household equipment that could run into considerable expense. She has a fair supply of records and the family enjoys them. They put up with what some might consider physical discomfort and yet life seems to be full and satisfying and interesting.
Perhaps that is really what riches are. People may have an occasional passing desire to have something they are not actually able to buy, but as long as it does not make them unhappy and envious then, I think, one can safely say that life is pleasant and that real riches have been achieved.
I have known many people who had a superabundance of this world's goods and never seemed to be rich at all. Life brought them more worries than satisfactions.
One of the real gifts that brings you riches, I think, is the power of appreciation. If you can enjoy the blue sky, the beauty of the fresh snow, or the first green of spring, if you can hear music and have it leave a song in your heart, if you can see a picture and take away something that is real and vital to dream about for days, then you have the ability to get joy out of your surroundings. That kind of appreciation is perhaps more valuable than some more tangible kinds of riches.
(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)