I was driving four of my friends to the Isle of Palms—a beach community located just north of Charleston, SC—to spend a long New Year’s weekend. We left Ocala at 7:00 in the morning and now, nearly noon, my buddies decided it was time for them to get into the bourbon—after all, we were celebrating the new year.
So there I was, the designated driver for four semi-inebriated, would be philosophers, political prognosticators and rock stars. After hours of discussing the meaning of life; arguing about the presidential election eleven months away—Bill Clinton was running and promising to do something about the cost of health care: sound familiar?—playing air guitars and singing along with the radio, I was relieved when we arrived at our destination.
We had rented a three story, six bedroom home directly on the beach. After unloading suitcases, groceries, and coolers I wandered down to the beach to take a long walk. Upon returning, I learned my buddies had made a tee-time for the following day; not yet having taken up golf, I made plans to spend the day with my friend Anne Dozier and David, another friend who also did not play golf.
The following morning Anne, David and I were watching television trying to decide what to do, when an ad came on for a nearby restaurant promising all the oysters you could eat. An oyster, lover, David insisted, we go there for lunch.
The restaurant steamed and served the oysters in galvanized buckets, with a spare bucket for the shells. We hadn’t finished the first bucket, when David ordered a second; during the third bucket, Anne informed him that we were leaving to do some shopping and would return later.
After spending an hour and a half shopping for groceries and other supplies, Anne and I returned to the restaurant to find it closed. I knew David must be nearby, so I knocked on the door to find out if someone knew his whereabouts. The waitress, who had served us, answered the door exclaiming, “Thank goodness you’re here. Your friend is still eating, the restaurant is closed and we want to go home. Can you get him to leave?”
I can only guess how many buckets of oysters he had consumed; yet, we still had to threaten to make him walk to get him to leave. When he did, he indignantly stomped out of the restaurant, leaving me to make apologies and pay the bill. After that experience and the drive up, I knew the next three days were going to be interesting; I didn’t know I was going to have a life-changing revelation.
Everyone was still asleep the next morning when I decided to go out to purchase a newspaper and a cup of coffee. A warm morning for January, I was sitting outside drinking my coffee, when I read in the paper that, after a long illness, the head of a major corporation had died.
As I read about the passing of the man who had built a large conglomerate and amassed great wealth, I realized that I had been freely given blessings—wealth that could not be purchased—that he would have forfeited his entire fortune for: good health and a wife, family and friends who love and looked after me. This past month, I was reminded of that revelation by a comment from a friend.
We were discussing the current economic nightmare, when my friend said, “Life is good; business is terrible.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth, thinking about the CEO who left behind the great fortune, I responded, “Isn’t that better than the other way around: life is terrible and business is good?”
It is important to put our difficulties into perspective. When I have worries, fret about opportunities missed and my stomach turns at the fear of an economic downturn lasting into the future; it’s then I remind myself that if I lost every penny I had, I would be wealthier than many of those on the Forbes list of the world’s 400 richest people.
“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” -Anon.