I grew up poor. 

Dirt poor.

Poverty stricken, really.

Interestingly enough, I didn't know it.

Nearly everyone I knew in our small rural community was not much better off, or worse off, than we were.

I always had plenty of food to eat and clothes to keep me warm.  Mama always dropped something in the collection plate at church when it came around.  When there was a holiday food drive for the three or four families who I thought of at the time as "poor" we always donated. 

When something came up at school that required money, Mama came up with it, and I had plenty of gifts at Christmas and on my birthday, although looking back to that now I have no real concept of where my parents might have gotten the money for all those things.

Me on my first Christmas. It looks like I got quite a haul.

We were tobacco farmers.  Our main cash crop was totally dependent on something called "the market" which I didn't understand, and we sold only once a year, in the winter.  That was the bulk of our cash for the coming year.  I remember times that Mama would work waitressing jobs for a few months here and there, and Daddy sold firewood all year long, so there was some cash coming in at other times, but mostly we were dependent on that one influx of cash when that year's tobacco crop sold.

When I was around nine or ten, something must have given me a clue as to our circumstances, so I asked, "Mama, are we... poor?"

Mama laughed, a short sharp sound and answered, "Yes.  Yes. We are poor."

But still, I don't think I ever quite believed it.  I had all the things I needed and most of the things I wanted, and if that was poor, then I guess I didn't really understand what the word meant.

Fast forward thirty years or so, and my boys have already broken or lost more toys than most kids get in a lifetime.  They have every iGadget, electronic and video game on the market.  They have closets full of clothes, many which are never worn.  We take them on expensive and elaborate vacations.  We do it because we want to, and because we can, but I worry that the constant influx of stuff into their lives will make them be unable to appreciate what they have.

The way they are growing up is so far removed from the way I grew up that I'm fearful they will feel entitled.  That they will be spoiled.  That they will think we are rich.

How can they appreciate something when it's covered up with and overshadowed by 15 other things?

I'm really not sure how we got here.  I'm really not sure how to change it, or if I even should.  I want them to have things.  Cool things.  Fun things.

But I NEED them to know it's not the things that will make them happy.  It's the people, the places, the experiences, the moments that will mold them into who they are, and who they will become.  How can I teach that from amidst a pile of forgotten THINGS that mean nothing?  

How can I teach them that RICH means having people who love you and who would do anything - ANYTHING - to ensure their happiness?

I don't know how we got here.  And I don't know what to do about it. 

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