In a dream the other night I visited the home of an old neighborhood friend. His family was extremely wealthy. I have no idea why I was there. As I stood waiting in the entryway, I immediately noticed that the beautiful wooden dining table in the adjacent room was filthy. Impetuously, I walked towards it and proceeded to meticulously wipe away the dust and debris along the top of the table and hidden in the cracks along the edges; since I did not have a rag, I used the bottom portion of my shirt.
While dreaming, I remember feeling that I should not clean the table, but... I could not stop myself.
Suddenly, three of my friend's sisters came walking in, chattering away, each holding multiple fancy shopping bags in each hand. Everything slowed down. They appeared to be dancing, full of laughter, bubbles, excitement, and innocence. I smiled at them; I wondered if they remembered me. Then, it dawned on me that I was cleaning their table. I knew they would not recognize me. This was confirmed when one cordially half-smiled back. Suddenly I realized that I probably appeared envious of their wealth-derived happiness. I wondered if I should stop cleaning - I wanted to stop cleaning. I wanted to explain who I was and why I was there. But, I could not stop cleaning.
I felt torn: I knew I could not explain my behavior, but I wanted them to know that I was not envious of their wealth.
Many thoughts and feelings flooded my mind and heart, yet, I continued cleaning the table.
A short time later, I walked out of the house. My friend appeared. I said hello, and goodbye, and then I left. And then, somehow I knew, even while dreaming, that I was there not only to observe the wealth, the riches, and the apparent happiness, but also to examine my own feelings towards money. Now, as I dig down deep inside and try to remember that dream and the feelings I had, I cannot identify any residual feelings of desire, regret, envy, sadness, or frustration.
Every once in a while I wonder if we have lived meagerly for long enough that my materialism has been completely squelched - enough that I can easily find happiness without money. I hope that it has. But, then, I see something for my daughter, and I can feel inside a small ache because I want so much to buy it for her. Maybe I do still need more time to develop a healthy relationship with money. I need to realize that my kids also don't need "things" to be happy.
Hopefully it won't take me too long to learn that one - we only have two and a half more years of residency left...