Are We Poor

If I had a chalkboard inside my house I would have written the following three lines on it:
Are We Poor.
Are We Poor?
Are We Poor!
Then I would have taken the erasers and clapped them together and laughed while the dust went everywhere. It must be close to 25 years or so since the last time I got in trouble for that. But I don't have a chalkboard inside my house and I really didn't want to take the one on my porch inside.

So instead of writing those three lines and speaking with my son about the influence of punctuation on the sentence I launched into a relatively brief discussion about why I don't care what others think and neither should he.

It seems some other child at his camp told him that he thinks that we are poor. Being a man of class and distinction I told him that when he sees this boy tomorrow he should ask him if his father still beats his mother and whether his uncle still buggers the dog.

Take a deep breath, I didn't say any of those things. I thought about it, but not in an angry way. I grew up in a middle class home and have spent my entire life with people who were less fortunate and more affluent than we were. During my professional career I have had my ups and downs, but have had far more ups than downs. Overall I can say that we have been very fortunate.

But the advantage of being 40 is that I have all sorts of life experience to rely upon and he at 8.5 does not. So now opens a new chapter in his life, the awareness that some of his friends have more than we do.

I am pleased to say that this is a recent event. For years now he has been playing with other children whose families are very well off. There have been lots of play dates at homes that are much larger than mine and trips in cars that cost more than both of mine. It didn't faze him, until now.

And I suspect that the reason it has is because the kids are getting a bit more aggressive and a bit nastier about some things.

Anyhoo, when he told me that this other boy said this I told him that he needs to remember three things:

1) His own sense of self esteem and self worth comes from within. It is not based upon how many friends he has or doesn't have.

2) We make decisions about others based upon their actions.

3) Money and possessions do not make people happy. They may help, but the ultimate source comes from within. Not to mention that he needs to get used to being a middle of the pack kind of kid. In this family we are not driven by money.

So I think that he followed what I was saying and that he got it, at least I hope so. In the interim I am going to monitor what happens with him and this other boy. Just another one of those life lessons that we get to experience.


Anonymous said...

Jack, IMHO you gave the perfect advice to your son (not that I'm an expert).

I must admit, I have been quite shocked at the pressure some Jewish people I know are under to have as much money/possessions/material wealth as their neighbours. One of my new Jewish friends constantly feels like a lesser person because he feels he has not 'made it' in the wealth stakes.

I just don't care what other people have, or can afford, or the type of home they live in, it's the person that counts. I would rather that they were a 'good person' with only two beans to their name than that they could feed me a feast on Shabbat but have an unpleasant personality.

Shabbat Shalom to you and your family - rich in love, from what I can see.

Jack Steiner said...

Good Shabbos to you as well. Rich in love is what we strive for. With any luck we succeed.

It is a more precious commodity and in some ways much easier to come by, love that is.

The Misanthrope said...

Tell him to ask what their payments are. You can also tell him about that commercial with two kids working at the country club and it was the small economical car that carried the richest person.

Jack Steiner said...


I'd like to, but this kid just wouldn't get it.

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