I’m rich.

Via elephant journal
on Jul 5, 2014
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waylon lewis linda mom

I’ve always been rich.

I was born rich.

I was raised by a single mom who never made more than $12,000 dollars a year (she was a teacher at a private school). I grew up on food stamps and free school lunches.

And yet: we had real food. Simple food. I never enjoyed soda or chips or pizza or pigs in the blanket like my friends. I got to eat organic bread, apples, spaghetti, stir fries, salads.

We didn’t own a car, or a TV, half the time. So I read and became a nerd (which wasn’t cool, then). And I played baseball and basketball (my budding career hampered by my being a nerd, and skipping a grade, and therefore being 1.5 years younger and shorter than my mates).

We didn’t have money to do things, so we did free things: we watched movies at the library, we celebrated life with our Buddhist community, we hiked with our rescue dog, we gardened or read (more) books or went to museums. There’s a lot to do for free, you know.

We were so poor that we went Christmases and such without presents. I remember my mom being so sad one year at being unable to give me a gift that she cried. But I didn’t feel sad: she gave me a great life, a fun life, an interesting life, a lot of love. A rich life.

I’ve always been rich: she taught me that I was intelligent, so I assumed that I was and acted the part. I loved learning. I got to be healthy and ride a bicycle. And though I never got to ski or travel (friends still ask me, without understanding, how it is that I live in Colorado and don’t ski, or am almost 40 and just traveled for the first time), I was taught that life is about appreciation, and generosity even when you don’t feel like it.

“Generosity is the virtue that produces peace,” Buddhism reminds us. Giving makes us feel rich, instead of tight, and stingy.

So forget wealth. Instead, focus on happiness. Happiness can’t be bought (though money helps get us there). Happiness has to be given away, and then and only then will it come back and settle into our hearts.


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11 Responses to “I’m rich.”

  1. yoga freedom says:

    Beautiful perspective, Waylon. Thanks for this!

  2. Keith says:

    More stuff does not equal more joy…wish more people could figure this out. Stuff is nice, but it is still…. well, stuff. Growing up we didn't travel much either….that became a goal… and a traveler is a nice lifestyle to achieve between bouts of work.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Amen. Stuff doesn't matter. Enough money to afford healthcare and food and a roof over one's head does matter. Community matters. Environment matters. It's simple and always has been and always will be.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Sharon C What a beautiful, inspiring post. Thank you!

    Christie S Very true and so beautifully put forth…I too did not grow up with some of the material advantages you mention but feel well-prepared to meet life each day. We were taught many core values like volunteering, giving, love for all people and each animal. Thanks for writing – a great way to begin today!

    Tricia P What a smart man you are!

    Waylon Lewis If true, it's thanks to my ma!

  5. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Aw, almost cried, well, sort of did, but also I felt quite rich raising such a bright son, having so much fun together doing simple things together like walking Pumpkin (our 1/2 Lab) up Sunshine Canyon, riding horses on Sunday for free–sometimes from North Boulder to Eldorado Springs + back (15 miles round trip), and being completely included + appreciated in Trungpa R's expanding mandala of dear friends–so that Waylon + I have friends for life. We have so much to be grateful for!

  6. Jillian says:

    You are just beautiful. I was raised very similarly. But we always had warm midwestern hot dishes, popcorn nights, books, free parks, rescue kittens, and each other. Thank you for this. Sending it to my bright light of a mother <3

  7. Special Living LA says:

    She must have been amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  8. DrAndrea says:

    ahhhh i love that your mom commented on this 🙂 best reply ever 🙂
    i know my mom'd be the only one reading and commenting on my blog if she was still around, i feel rich just realizing that, how lucky i was to have such a fan for so long 😉
    thanks to both of you

  9. Shantini says:

    My best friend Jamie Khoo told me about your article and asked me to read it – I'm so glad I did. This is a beautiful story. Rich in happiness is the best kind of rich there is. Thank you for reminding me, Waylon.

  10. Melissa says:

    Exactly. MY son's father died when he was very young, and his grandparents have spoiled him rotten, giving him everything he could ever want in the way of material "stuff" to the point he was becoming spoiled and bratty. Finally, I had to have a real hard talk with him about his behavior and their overindulgence of him and how he was taking advantage of it. After a few of these chats, it didn't seem like it was getting through to him, so I sat him down and piled up his iPad, iPod, video games, all of it on a table and said, "If you could choose, would you rather have this STUFF or your dad back?" He was horrified and began to cry, but the message stuck. PEOPLE are vastly more important than STUFF. He still has his bratty moments, but since that day he's been much more well-behaved, and not only that, he's been more appreciative of me and the things I do for him that aren't necessarily material.

  11. Brian Westbye says: