When I was a kid, we were poor.
I’m an adult now and guess what? I’m still poor – I have a poor temperament, I lack wisdom and some even say that I have poor hygiene. But of all these things, financial struggles are a common occurrence which puts me in the same boat with the majority of the world’s population, right?
As a kid my parents sheltered me from the financial hardship and did everything they could to provide me and my siblings with a good life. But it’s hard for a kid to recognize and be grateful for the sacrifices your parents make when all you see are the comforts and luxury items your friends have when you go to school.
Envy is an ulcer that festers.
Envy is unlawful and I was a repeat offender as a kid. I was especially bad in winter when all the palagi kids arrived at school snuggled in their warm parkas, snow boots and ski gloves to protect them from the harsh winter winds and fallen snow. My siblings and I would often show up to school in hand-me-down coats with our hands buried deep within the folds of our pockets, careful not to venture off the snow-cleared paths for fear that wet toes would not dry before the final bell rang to signal the end of the miserable school day.
I felt so sorry for myself back then. I feel more sorry for my school age self today – sorry that he only recalled later in life that there were palagi kids in the same class who didn’t have a coat much less a hand-me-down one. Sorry that he didn’t recognize until later in life that cold, wet toes eventually warm up and dry up but the cold feeling your parents must have felt when you accused them of being insensitive to your needs. And did my mother’s tears ever cease to wet her cheeks every time they were shed for my wanton selfishness?
I thought I knew what being poor is like. But when our family moved to Samoa, I finally saw what poverty really looks like. The biting and inexorable truth was that I was far better off than most kids my age and yet I only chose to look at what I didn’t have, rather than be grateful for the things that I already possessed and none of it through my own merit and labor.
Author Oscar Wilde said, “Irony is wasted on the stupid.” Though I have been accused of many things, I have tried earnestly, yes tirelessly, to safeguard myself from stupid notions, vices, etc. but I am human and we humans are prone to (and afforded) a few boneheaded moments now and then. Yet at that point in my life I was quick to note the error in my judgment and gradually came to the painful and humbling understanding that my perception of what was, was certainly far from the truth.
The unexpected factor in this revelation of my selfishness was the fact that the people whom I thought were poor in Samoa, never considered themselves as such. In fact, it was often those individuals whom had very little who gave more freely of their time and substance than those of us who horded away useless, material things.
Hindsight is the only sight that reveals our true character.
I learned a great deal from that experience. Super Mom and I try our best to teach our sons that the value we place on money in large part determines how we treat other people. It is a sad but it is something that I’ve witnessed many times in my life. Is it fact or fiction? Truth or perception? Only we can know whether the love of money or possessions is truly evil. I know that my feelings towards others including my parents and a few innocent kids who had snow boots when I didn’t were certainly influenced by my poor albeit juvenile judgment.
Today Super Mom and I encourage our sons to find employment as soon as they are able to earn an income whether its babysitting, officiating in little league games at the local recreation center or doing odd jobs. We also strongly advocate the need to perform service as often as possible. We hope that by doing the first activity that they will learn the value of hard work and determination while the latter is a push to teach them humility, modesty, sacrifice and love. Super Mom is the driving force behind that endeavor and I am grateful to her for her example. Me? I just don’t want them to repeat the sins of their father. Because if they make their mom cry the way that I made mine cry so often when I was a kid than we are all going to be in trouble.