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I am filthy rich.

Photo by Scott Neeson of Cambodian Children's Fund. This little girl lives in a village outside the former Stung Meanchey dump site.
Photo by Scott Neeson of Cambodian Children’s Fund. This little girl lives in a village outside the former Stung Meanchey dump site.

Did you know that if your household makes $34,000 a year or more you are among the richest 1% in the world? $34,000 a year. That’s all it takes to be richer than most of the 7 BILLION people on the planet. Let that sink in for a moment. By that standard, I am rich. FILTHY RICH. Extravagantly, luxuriously rich.

By American standards my family is slightly above average, maybe well above average if my husband has a good year. It’s easy to look around at my suburban neighbors and feel like we have less than they do. But when I consider the global scale, all of a sudden I realize how unbelievably lucky I am. With that mindset I can give, give, give because I realize that I’m already rich. I don’t need to strive for another status symbol. When I recognize the abundance in my life, it makes me want to give more away- more money, more time, more effort.

I grew up kind of poor by American standards. We lived in a house that was only partially finished on the inside because my parents paid cash for everything and did a little at a time. We didn’t have a lot of new clothes. We never once took an extravagant vacation. We only ate out on special occasions. My husband makes more money than my dad, so now being married to my husband and living in a finished, very nice, very large home makes me feel like I’m a jet setter. I’m not really a jet setter of course, but my kids have far more toys, clothes and vacations than my brother and I ever did. My current lifestyle seems lavish to me compared to how I grew up.

While I feel like I’ve already “made it,” I know a lot of people who are still striving. What they have doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe they have a certain dollar amount that signifies success and they won’t be happy til they hit that number. Or maybe they see other people with more stuff and they feel the need to catch up. Whatever that feeling of lack or emptyness is, I don’t have it. When I look around at my middle class life, I see excess. I see toys my kids are tired of playing with, clothes that have hardly been worn, three pairs of running shoes when I only need one pair. I see a refrigerator full of food, and a grocery store two minutes away if I need anything else. And all this is coming from someone who makes a conscious effort to have less stuff than everybody else! I still have so much stuff!

We live in a consumer culture, meaning our lives revolve around buying new stuff. The whole advertising industry exists to create a need where none exists. Once I woke up to how ridiculous that is, I found such a sense of freedom in my life- freedom from an abyss of striving for an imaginary need that will never be met. Because I’m not always perceiving a lack, I recognize the abundance in my life and I can give freely. I already have enough so I can give the excess away. It’s a much more fulfilling way to live!

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