No Money In Heaven
“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be a better place, because I was important in the life of a child.” (changed from the original quotation from “Within My Power” by Forest E. Witcraft)
My birthday was just about 6 months ago… that makes me a half a year older than I was on my birthday. There already wasn’t any room for all the candles on the cake – not that I can even eat cake anymore. Well… I shouldn’t eat it “they” say.
I’m not much one to celebrate my own birthday. It never seemed like much of a cause for celebration – at least not since I was eighteen. And, I suppose at 18 there are many good reasons to celebrate: you have an entire lifetime in front of you and your entire childhood behind you – but not very far behind you.
And, by law, in most places, when you turn eighteen, you are an adult. So, while my eighteenth birthday is more than a bit blurry in retrospect, I probably did celebrate it with a lot of youthful “enthusiasm”. But, I can’t remember ever being really excited about any birthday I’ve had since then.
The older we get the less birthdays we have to look forward to, I guess. When you’re younger this doesn’t seem to be a factor, but as we age, birthdays become more of a time for reflection than celebration. At least in my life they are.
This past year as my birthday approached I started thinking about my life and things I’ve accomplished and things I wish I wouldn’t have done. Oh yes, there are many things I shouldn’t have done and looking back on them makes me feel foolish. I like to think I have no regrets, but I probably do. I’ve always thought that regrets, like worries, are useless things. They are like anchors on boats. If you’re dragging an anchor around all the time, you’re going to have a difficult and arduous journey. You have to hoist the anchor and put it where it belongs. You’ll never reach your goals or dream exciting dreams if you’re dragging an anchor around. You cannot reach goals or accomplish great things if you’re carrying around a bunch of regrets and worries with you.
One of the things I thought about, as my birthday approached, was how much money I should have (and could have) put away during my life and didn’t. I don’t know, I’m sort of the guy who marches to a different drummer anyway; and money to me is just a “thing”. I’ve always believed that things can be easily replaced. Therefore, money never had great value to me. Things that can’t be replaced have always been my most treasured possessions.
Still, I do have my little daydreams: I’ve often dreamed, like most people do, of winning a big lottery and becoming an instant multi-millionaire. The older I get though, the more I think I don’t know what I’d do with ten or twenty million dollars. At this point in time, millions of dollars wouldn’t change my life much. I never much cared for fancy cars, I’ve had my one and only experience with boats, I wouldn’t quit the work I do because I enjoy it, and I don’t have many things I can think of that I really need or really want. I guess winning $10 million would be more of a burden than a blessing. I suppose fighting off the stock brokers, real estate agents, salesman, insurance companies, and all the other people who seem to have a higher regard for wealth than I do would irritate me and I’ve have to hide from them. That wouldn’t be fun at all. If I won the lottery I’d probably make sure my children were provided for and give the rest to charity. Or would I? I don’t think I’ll ever have to make these decisions and that’s a good thing. I might be somehow and forever changed by the money. And that’s a bad thing, I think.
My nonchalant attitude toward money means that I have not put much away for that proverbial “rainy day”. I don’t have a big retirement account. I don’t have gold stashed. I don’t have much in the way of any kind of portfolio. I don’t have large real estate holdings. So, I guess I’m a bigger fool than even I think I am. I’m sure many would think so.
But…looking a head a little:
Sometimes I think about myself spending my final years in some cheap, smelly nursing home and yes that sort of bothers me a little. My rationalizing, however, insulates me. I think that when that day comes, I won’t remember much of anything – like for instance who I am. Life seems to make adjustments and allowances for things like that. My grandma always told me that “the Lord never gives us a burden larger than we can bear”. I sure hope she was right. We’ll see.
I guess I haven’t done a lot of things I should have done in my life. But, the other day it occurred to me that there’s no money in heaven. And, no, I’m certainly not sure I’m going to heaven, but still I’m just as certain that they don’t use money in the other place, either. So, wherever I go (and I hope it’s heaven) one thing I know: I won’t need any money. It’s an all-expenses-pre-paid eternal journey – no money required. Ever. No money down – no money due — forever and ever. And that’s true no matter which direction you’re headed.
I will admit – I haven’t put much aside for the future. At least not in the way of material things. But let me tell you what happened on my birthday this year that taught me that perhaps I’ve put aside something much more important than money. Maybe, I’ve done a few things right in this up-and-down life of mine. At least, I like think I have.
The best birthday present I’ve ever received was the one I received about 10 years ago. It wasn’t wrapped in a fancy package – but it was a surprise. My youngest son, who at the time was a graduate student at a university about four hours away from me, came home just for my birthday. Not only did he come home for my birthday but spent the entire day with me. He came home just for my birthday and he hung arond with his old man all day.
That’s really the nicest part about this present is that it was given by a then twenty-five year-old young man. At twenty-five (if you remember) there are always about a gazillion things you could be and want to be doing. And most likely driving four hours and spending the entire day with your father, on his birthday, is not one of them. Yet, my son, not only spent the entire day with me, he drove four hours one way to do it. And then had to drive four more hours just to go back to work/school the next day. So this gift means a great deal to me. It will always be a precious memory. The greatest birthday present ever.
And it had nothing to with money. Money isn’t worth much really – is it?
My son believes in giving “experiences” for Christmas and birthday. Experiences make memories and memories never wear out or rust or break. I can have that special gift anytime I want just by remembering a day in my life when my son thought enough of me to go way out of his way to give me a birthday present I will never forget – as long as I live.
And maybe even longer than that.
And, I have another son, who has his own business, and for those of you who’ve done that, you know it’s not easy. He works many fourteen and sixteen hour days – sometimes seven days a week. He’s giving it all he’s got to make his business successful. Yet, he too, took time to visit me on my birthday and took several hours out of his busy day. He comes every week to see me and we argue over who will pay for lunch.
I am blessed and very rich, aren’t I.
Now nearly six months have passed since my birthday and I’ve had a chance to reflect a little more on this process of growing older and (I hope) wiser. My bank account hasn’t grown much – hasn’t grown at all actually. My “portfolio” is still non-existent. I haven’t invested much money. Some people might call me a fool. Others, I’m sure, think I’m a loser.
But I’m not a loser – I am a rich and lucky man. Money or no money. You can have have millions of dollars and be a loser just look around and you’ll see what I mean.
My investments have been well made; the dividends are priceless. I haven’t stashed away huge sums of cash; I don’t have stockpiles of gold and diamonds; I don’t have a binder full of stocks and bonds; I don’t have much in the way of money or any kind of material wealth; but I am a very wealthy man nonetheless.
The investments I made when my children were young are yielding dividends far beyond anything I could have imagined. I didn’t invest a lot of money, but I did invest a great deal of time. And, I spent a lot of time with both of children, not because of any self-perceived fatherly obligation; I spent time with them because I really wanted to. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Now they’re grown and I miss the school plays, Christmas concerts, spring concerts, the Little League ballgames. I miss watching movies with them on weekends. I even miss watching their favorite TV shows with them even though most of their “favorite” shows weren’t exactly my cup of tea. I miss putting them to bed and kissing them good night. I miss long, lazy weekend mornings when we’d just sit at the table and talk. In short I miss the time we spent together.
So, the world may look at me and see me as just as just another average guy. No fancy cars, no fancy boats, no jet-setting off to Casablanca for the weekend. No, I haven’t accumulated much in the way of worldly goods. That’s for sure. But, I have more than many billionaires. And, I certainly wouldn’t trade my fortune for theirs.
I hope that those of you with children or grandchildren are investing wisely. While it might be nice to have a stockpile of valuable things, the most valuable things are also the most intangible things. There is no greater return on your investment than the return you get from a child in whom you’ve invested your time. You’ll get back far more than you bargained for; and far more than you ever dreamed. You’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams even if you don’t have a penny to your name.
Where your treasure lies there will be your heart also.
And I am absolutely certain that there is no money in heaven.