There is 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 is a little over a month from now. 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 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 fewer 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 year as my birthday approaches, I think 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 do.
I’ve always thought that regrets, like worries, are useless things. They are like trying to sail a boat with its anchor dragging. If you’re dragging an anchor around all the time, you’re going to have a difficult and arduous journey. You’re going to have a tough time getting where you’re going. You must hoist the anchor and put it where it belongs. You’ll never reach your goals or even dream exciting dreams if you’re dragging an anchor around. You cannot reach goals or accomplish remarkable things if you’re dragging around the weight of a bunch of regrets and worries.
One of the things I think about is 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, money to me is just a “thing”. I’ve always believed that things can be replaced. Therefore, money never had a significant value to me. Things that can’t be replaced have always been my most treasured possessions – love, faith, friends, hope.
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 stockbrokers, real estate agents, salesman, insurance companies, and all the other people who have a higher regard for wealth than I do would irritate me and I’d have to hide from them. That wouldn’t be fun at all. If I won the lottery, I’d 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 ahead a little:
Sometimes I think about myself spending my final years in some cheap nursing home and yes that sort of bothers me a little. But I love to read and dabble at chess, so maybe even in the run-down institution to which I may be headed may be somewhat tolerable. My rationalizing, however, insulates me a bit. I think that when that day comes, I hope I won’t remember much of anything – like for instance who I am. It will make things easier if my kids warehouse me and I don’t know who they are or who the heck I am.
Life makes adjustments and allowances for things like that. My grandma used to tell me that “the Lord never gives you a burden larger than you can carry”. I hope she’s right. We’ll see.
I guess I haven’t done a lot of things I should have done in my life. I certainly haven’t built a golden nest egg – I have little money put away. However, the other day it occurred to me that there is 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 matter which direction I am headed.
So, I admit that 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 last year that taught me that I’ve put aside something much more important than money. I’ve done a few things right in this up-and-down life of mine. At least, I like to think I have.
The best birthday present I’ve ever received was the one I received a few years ago. It wasn’t wrapped in a fancy package – but it was a surprise. My two boys took time an entire evening out of their busy lives to spend it with me. They took me to an extravagant seafood buffet on the lake. And besides one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life, my two boys went together and bought me a present I’ve used almost every day since – a Roku and a Netflix subscription.
The dinner and the present were nice, but the greatest thing was something that cost nothing but meant everything – my two grown boys treating their father to a night to remember. I can’t put in words how much that meant to me.
Because it is not something you can see or touch, or put away in a drawer, it will never grow old or wear out. I can have it anytime I want it just by remembering a day in my life when my sons thought enough of me to go out of their way to give me a birthday present that I will never forget – as long as I live.
And who knows, maybe- just maybe – even longer than that.
I don’t have a lot of money, but I am blessed, and I am very wealthy. Am I not?
Now, several years have passed since that 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. My “portfolio” is still non-existent. I haven’t invested much money in anything. Some people might call me a fool. Others, I’m sure, think I’m a loser. But with sons like mine, I’m far from a loser. I am a rich and lucky man. Money or no money… every one of us knows that people with millions of dollars can still be losers.
My investments have been well made. The dividends they have returned are priceless. I don’t have much in the way of money or material things, but I am a very wealthy man indeed
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. I invested a great deal of time. And I spent a lot of time with both of my sons, not because of any fatherly obligation. I spent time with them because I really, really wanted to.
And I enjoyed every minute of it.
Now they’re grown and I still miss the school plays, Christmas concerts, spring concerts, and 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 goodnight. 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 when they were younger.
So, the world may look at me and see me as just another average guy. And maybe the world sees me as a loser. I don’t have fancy cars or fancy boats and I don’t go jet-setting off to Casablanca for the weekend. I haven’t accumulated much in the way of possessions. That’s for sure. But, I have more than many billionaires, and I 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 intangible things. There is no greater return on your investment than the return you get from the time you invested in your children. You’ll get back far more than you ever dreamed. You’ll be rich even if you don’t have a penny to your name.
Where your treasure lies there will be your heart also. I am one-hundred percent certain of one thing…
There is no money in heaven.