I stopped for gas out of state last week. Powerball lottery tickets were on display by the register and the cashier asked me if I wanted a chance to win twenty million dollars.

Hmm. “Twenty million bucks,” I thought. My truck’s 14 years old and my Honda’s pushing 180,000 miles. It’d be great not to pay a college savings plan, mortgage and IRA every month, and I’d love to place a huge diamond under the Christmas tree.

On the other hand, that much money can ruin a guy and 20 million is chicken feed compared to what I already have. We’re not rich, but we’re blessed and it feels pretty good to earn what we have.

For 15 years I’ve been married to a woman I still have a crush on. My son’s a joy to be around and wants to do everything with me. Our family and friends love us for who we are and not because they can ride our coattails down easy street. That’s worth a lot, and I can’t see how a pile of cash would make it any better.

Our house is tiny compared to the ones on HGTV, but we’ve remodeled it ourselves and it feels like home. After years of paying extra each month, we’re just about free and clear and I doubt scratching off a ticket at a gas station to buy a Malibu mansion would give me the same satisfaction.

Money’s a funny thing. For as much time as we spend thinking about how to get it and what we might do with it afterwards, it actually has very little impact on our happiness. My wife and I started out with nothing (and we still have most of it). After paying the bills as newlyweds, we usually had less than fifty bucks to last two weeks until the next payday. We shared one car, one bedroom, and one bath and were just as happy then as we have been since.

I’ve eaten loaves of French bread from the day-old store and enough Ramen noodles to feed Taiwan. I’ve also had swordfish at the Luxor and filet mignon at a five star in Argentina. But regardless of what was on the menu or how much it cost, my favorite meals were the ones shared with people I loved. Hot dogs with my son beat a five course meal with some bore talking shop.

Everybody wishes for money from time to time, but we’ll all eventually realize that it’s foolish to love something that can’t love you back. Unfortunately, some don’t learn that lesson until they’ve wasted their lives chasing things that never can satisfy. When you’re old, lonely, and rich, you can’t buy back a chance to take your five year old fishing again or to see your daughter’s first recital.

If we just took the time to notice, most of us would realize that we’re far richer than we thought. No one I know has ever or likely will ever win a lottery. But I’ve known quite a few people who are rich beyond measure because they understand the value of their family and friends.

“No thanks,” I told the cashier, “I’ve got a lot more than that already.”

“Really?!” she asked.

“Yep.”



Craig Ziemba is a military pilot who lives in Meridian. His book, Give War a Chance is available at Meridian area Bible Bookstores.

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