Here are the criteria I remember:
1. If a family's house had more than one story, they must be rich. Why I thought the existence of stairs in a house meant tons o' money is beyond me, but somehow it made sense back then.
2. If a family had a built-in swimming pool, they just had to be rich. My sister and I used to beg our mom all summer long to take us to the public pool in a neighboring town. I remember it was usually so crowded that we'd just claim a spot along the wall and hang out there all day. There was very little swimming involved. To me it seemed like having your own pool would be the ultimate in luxury.
3. If one of my peers wore designer clothes, their parents were most certainly rich. I have blogged before about how we didn't have very much when I was growing up. I was very grateful for what we did have but I was just sure I might be cooler or have more friends if I had the right clothes.There was a short list of people I knew who actually had all three! It practically blew my mind. I just knew that they slept on mattresses stuffed with cash and used dollar bills as toilet paper.
Seriously though, I don't want it to sound like my childhood days were spent dreaming about fancy clothes and swimming pools and houses with stairs. They really weren't. But isn't it silly how we think this way? Sometimes I think I still do it in my adult life. I look at families today who have children and I think, wow they sure do have everything. In reality I know that every family has struggles. We don't usually know what secret hurt someone else is dealing with, or what thing they are longing to have. I'm not talking anymore about jealousy or covetousness as much as sheer longing for the desires of your heart.
Lately I'm not happy with my lack of contentment. There are many areas in my life today where I do feel very "rich." I still don't have a multilevel home, a pool, or designer clothes. I no longer care a single bit about those things! I'm rich in other ways that aren't necessarily tangible. Those are the facts, yet I'm still longing. Can longing and contentment go hand in hand? Where do we get contentment? I know the answer but I'm still trying to get a firm grasp on it in my own life. I'm humbled by the Apostle Paul's words about contentment in the midst of circumstances far worse than any I could imagine (Philippians 4:11-13, printed below). I know he achieved that not on his own but because of Christ's strength within him. Despite his situation, I can look at Paul and recognize that he was indeed a very rich man.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.