When I was a kid my friends and I loved going to the ‘rich neighborhood’ to look at beautiful houses with large picture windows. I recall peering through those windows and imagining cheerful wives preparing world class dinners for their handsome husbands.
In my mind, the families who lived there had no troubles or worries; just pounds and pounds of pleasure!
After admiring the houses in the ‘rich neighborhood,’ my friends and I would sometimes take a short-cut through ‘the hood’ to get home.
If you don’t know what ‘the hood’ is, go google ‘hood’ images and rejoin me after you have had time to review the results.
At any rate, ‘the hood’ that I am speaking of was exactly two left turns from the tony neighborhood with the big picture windows.
Uh oh, you seem surprised by the proximity of these two polar opposite realms? Don’t be! Believe it or not, my friend Gloria swears that you can always find ‘the hood’ by taking two right turns from any wealthy district.
While I have no way of verifying that this is always the case, it was certainly the case in this story.
Anyway, let’s just say that ‘the hood’ was—DIFFERENT. There I saw frazzled wives asking their dog-tired husbands for a dollar or two. Clearly, this scene was not at all like the one I imagined as I walked through the ‘rich neighborhood.’
Sorry, friends, it had not yet occurred to me that I was comparing real situations to imaginary scenarios. At any rate, in my childish mind, it was clear that in ‘the hood’ there was mostly trouble, big worries and nothing much to be pleased about.
Sadly, after years of conducting this side by side comparison of rich and not so rich, I had come to the misguided conclusion that if you wanted to be happy, ALL you needed was a lot of money and that was all there was to that!
Yeah, like many Americans, I bought into THAT delusion.
Anyhow, as fate would have it, several years later, I ended up attending a high school that had a very diverse socioeconomic population.
If you had surveyed our school’s student parking lot you would have found Jaguars, Mercedes, Buicks, Nissans, Hoopties and everything in between.
Of course, there were also students who came from families who had no car at all.
I used to joke that some of my friend’s parents owned the factory, some managed the factory, some worked at the factory and some couldn’t get hired at the factory!
Laugh if you want to, I am being very serious!
Getting back to the point, as a popular cheerleader, I easily made friends with folks from every economic class and, as a result, I soon learned that many of my ‘rich’ friend’s parents were drunk and fighting and my ‘poor’ friend’s parents were truly enjoying each other’s company (and vice versa).
In short, I learned that you cannot calculate the happiness factor of a family by looking at their bank statement (that’s if they have a bank) or by any other outward measure.
In addition, it finally dawned on me that the ‘cheerful wives’ that I imagined as a child in the rich neighborhood could have been dealing with bankruptcy and physical abuse while the ‘frazzled wives’ that I saw in the hood could have been enjoying relatively happy marital relationships.
So here is the takeaway: Do not make judgments based on exteriors; people are much too complex for that.
Also, do not attach peace, happiness, joy, anger, sadness and pain to financial status. If you do, you will end up leading a very confused life.
Be aware that these feelings are always in a state of flux- and they will take turns grabbing hold of you from time to time regardless of your socioeconomic, ethnic, or educational background.
Your job is to enjoy the good times and find a healthy way to manage the hard times.
Now, detach thyself from all of that mess and go get thine life!