A good way to start is with a smile, so here are two amusing Yiddish proverbs. 1) “If the rich could hire other people to die for them, the poor could make a wonderful living.” 2) “Poverty is a wonderful thing. It sticks to a man after all his friends have forsaken him.” Wealth and poverty are subjects that often arise in our thoughts. For example, here are the thoughts of American cartoonist Jules Feiffer on poverty:
“I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy. Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy. I was deprived. (Oh, not deprived but rather underprivileged.) Then they told me that underprivileged was overused. I was disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime. But I have a great vocabulary.”
Yes, Jules Feiffer has a great vocabulary. And he has a great sense of humor. Those who do are attuned to the world. They are alert and awake. They can see what others don’t. They are joyful because they live in a world of abundance. The treasures in our midst captivate them: books, music, art, nature, people to love, worthwhile things to do, and unlimited opportunities. Though we share the same world, some remain asleep and are ignorant of the abundance that surrounds them.
Someone or something needs to awaken them. In the following poem, a woman in Richmond, British Columbia describes her self-awakening.
Awakening the Spirit
I am lost
Lost in the desert of life
I feel the sun burning my skin
Yet I cannot see the light
I feel the sand wearing away the soles of my feet
Yet I feel no pain
I feel nothing
I am moving
But there is no destination
I am lost
I feel alone
I search deep into my soul
But there is only emptiness
Where is the joy?
Where is the passion?
Where is the hope?
I am so thirsty
Thirsty for water
Thirsty for the light
Wait . . . I know why I cannot see
My eyes are closed
I know why I cannot feel
I have shut down my heart
I know why there is no destination
I have rejected the possibilities
Again, I search into my soul
Deeper than I’ve ever searched before
And I see the light
It is there
I concentrate on the light
And it becomes brighter
The brightness of the light begins to warm my heart
I remember the journey
And I remember the joy, the passion
Again, there is hope
I now feel the pain of the sun and the sand
Because I know I am alive
Alive to embrace the possibilities
Alive to continue the journey
Alive to reach my destination
— Hedy F. Andrews
We, too, can awaken. One way to do so is to remember all the suffering we have avoided. Are you in desperate need of an organ transplant? Have you lost the use of your limbs? Have you lost your sight or hearing? Do you suffer from a mental illness? Are you locked behind prison bars? Do you have cancer, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s disease? If you have answered “No” to these questions, you are rich. What good is all the wealth in the world to those who have lost their health or freedom? And to those who have answered “Yes” to one of the above questions, aren’t there others who are far worse off than you? Compared to them, aren’t you rich?
Another way to awaken is to remember all the blessings you have. Do you have a family and friends? Do you have a job and a place to stay? Do you have sufficient food to eat? Enough clothes to wear? Do you have time to relax and enjoy yourself? Do you have libraries, parks, schools, and community centres in your neighborhood? How rich you are compared to the lonely, the unemployed, and the homeless!
The doorway to abundance, then, is a grateful heart. And the windows are our attitude and ability to see the possibilities. Much good can be done with wealth and possessions, but care of the spirit comes first, for what good are riches to unhappy people? Muhammad (570 ~ 632) expressed it this way, “Riches are not from abundance of worldly goods, but from a contented mind.”
Are you rich or poor? Well, the terms are relative. There is always someone richer or poorer than you are. So, you are what you think you are. That’s why Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 ~ 1882) said, “Poverty consist in feeling poor.” If you experience joy, fun, pleasure, exuberance, enthusiasm, discovery, understanding, hope, laughter, wonder, and love, who can deny that you are rich? True riches well up from the soul and flow into our lives. Beware of negative thoughts and beliefs. For they are the plaque that clogs our spiritual “blood vessels.” Nurture positive thoughts to dissolve the plaque and allow abundance to freely flow.
We can focus on only one thing at a time. So, if we focus on our blessings, we will not be engaged in thoughts of poverty, scarcity, or lack. Besides, gratitude attracts abundance, for when we are aware of its presence, we are quick to discover new opportunities that come our way. Thankfulness also benefits our relationships. After all, people delight in giving to those who appreciate it and stop giving to those who are unappreciative.
An interesting irony of life is we find what we seek by giving it away. How do we make friends? Isn’t it by first becoming one? How do we win respect? By first respecting others. The same principle applies to abundance. The more we try to give it away, the more it multiplies and comes back to us. Be kind. Be generous. Be helpful. And when you are, you will discover you live in an immensely kind, generous, and helpful world.
If the path you’re treading seems a bit rough, courage is the bulldozer and steamroller that will smooth the way for you. Suze Orman explains, “Courage is vision, and it refuses to let today’s defeat block our path into the future. When the light of courage illuminates our way, we always find true richness at the end of the path. Courage is faith. Faith in a higher being, perhaps, or faith in the essential rightness of the world – that correct actions and beliefs are not only their own reward but also qualities that themselves will be rewarded.”
Abundance, then, is not about shaking your bun on the dance floor (‘a bun dance’), but about awakening to the riches in our midst and the riches in our minds, hearts, and souls. For as Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749 ~ 1832) wrote, “He who is plenteously provided for from within, needs but little from without.” But, as Epicurus (c.341 ~ 270 BC) warns us, “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” How shall we treat our fellow travellers who are also seeking abundance? Benjamin Disraeli (1804 ~ 1881) provides the answer: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”