Though spring has not yet fully sprung, the recent peeks of sunshine and temperate weather have brought a longing for summer. I fondly remember one particularly beautiful day last year, when the whole family went on a boat cruise on a particularly posh lake for my mom’s birthday. I love the water. There’s just something about the water that soothes the soul.
The sun was warm and the waves were calm as we made our way around the lake. The crew entertained us with historic information about the lake and the inhabitants of the perimeter, and we watched intently along the shoreline to see the homes from this rare vantage point. Some of the homes were modest, obviously having been there for many decades. Some were stately, clearly a result of newer money. The architecture of each home was unique and the lakefront amenities were enviable. It was fun to imagine and dream – if only for a minute.
And then we saw it. The boat’s occupants made a collective gasp as we came upon the sprawling estate, with a significant portion of shoreline on two sides. It was enormous and breath-taking – immaculate white stone, copious windows and a multi-level patio that rivaled the square footage of most other homes on the lake. As the boat slowed, we noticed a second building on the property, a stately albeit smaller 2-story home mirroring the architecture and stonework of the first. The crew explained this was the mother-in-law house.
As we collectively gasped and gawked, we all wondered what would that be like? To have that much money? To live in something so beautiful, so grand. It was altogether another world.
Amid my daydreaming, I became almost sad. I noticed that the manicured lawn had no discernable divots indicating children or animals at play. There were no signs of life, no toys, not even a boat in the dock. Perhaps there were no children or grandchildren to tear up the lawn. Perhaps the residents preferred to stay inside on this perfect weather day, there was certainly plenty of space inside. Perhaps they weren’t home. Perhaps the steady flow of gawkers made them uncomfortable.
Sometimes one assumes that money buys happiness, yet it doesn’t. So, I couldn’t help but wonder if they are happy, if they feel loved. I wonder if they are misunderstood or taken advantage of because of their wealth. I wondered if they have true friends who would be there for them regardless of their wealth. I wondered if they find it hard to trust others and if this lifestyle is marked by unimaginable stress. I wondered if the mansion(s) and manicured lawn are primarily for show – to be accepted by their peers. I wondered if this impressive display came from a foundation of joy and peace in their lives or was somehow compensating for a lack thereof. I wondered how often they are judged, and I thought about how harsh people can be with their words and assumptions. I thought about how important it is to have people with this type of wealth that can be generous and philanthropic, and I hope they are.
In the spirit of the Enough Life, I wondered if there is a point where the money becomes a burden or the wealth becomes unreasonable? I’m sure there is. Most of us know what it is to lack, with the associated stress and challenges. Most of us don’t know what it means to truly have the kind of wealth displayed by that estate, or more. While we think we may like it, and it was fun to dream for a minute, in the end there are burdens of another kind that accompany that level of wealth.
Oh, for sure the poor and rich can be equally unhappy and feel equally unloved, equally used by others. And regardless of one’s position on the spectrum, greed, envy, and jealousy can creep in to steal joy and sour relationships. I thought of Ecclesiastes 5:10b, which says “How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!” (NLT). The writer of Ecclesiastes has much to say on the topic and ultimately laments that this too is meaningless.
I walked away with an appreciation for the beauty I saw that day and with an understanding that we are all on our own journey. I prayed for them and wished them well in my heart.
While money can buy most things, it cannot buy love, peace, joy and true soul satisfaction. No matter what one has or does not have, we all can be generous. We can all love and forgive. And in these, the most important of things, we can all be rich beyond reason.