A housekeeper taught him wealth is about more than money

True wealth can be found in the gratitude, loving kindness and generosity of spirit you feel.

I spent my teenage years in New York City. My parents divorced when I was 13 years old, and we moved to the city from the suburbs. I lived with my mother. She worked two jobs for several years, as did my father, to help pay for my brothers’ college tuition. My mother hired a housekeeper, Beulah, to help out at home.

I spent a lot of time with Beulah. She and I developed a friendship that lasted decades after she retired. She was a remarkable person. She grew up on the Mississippi Delta in abject poverty. She lived in the South Bronx with her family. She was a deacon in her church, and was admired and respected by her community. She was the most deeply spiritual and loving person I’d ever met.

After school, she and I would sit at the kitchen table and talk. Like teenagers can be, I was pretty self-absorbed. But, somehow, through the haze of my adolescent self-involvement, I could see that Beulah was a special person — a shining light.

“Honey,” she once said to me, with her deep, rich, Southern accent, “I am the richest person I know. Would you believe it, I have seven pairs of shoes in my closet? I can wear a different pair of shoes every day of the week.”

Many years later, my wife and I visited her in the South Bronx and sat at her kitchen table, soaking up her wisdom.

What did Beulah teach me? Wealth is not about how much money you have in the bank, the car you drive or the size of your house. It’s not about what you do for a living — whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, shoemaker or maid. It comes from a sense of value and worth that emanates from inside. It comes from a feeling of gratitude for what you have. It arises from giving to others and sharing whatever you have to offer — even if that’s just your time.

Material wealth provides comfort and a sense of security. Status results in superficial respect from others. But a person with character, integrity, generosity and a loving heart is respected by others for who they are, not for what they have.

During the recession of 2008, we saw many of our neighbors lose their jobs, their houses and their professions. Many never regained what they had. Economic circumstances can change — sometimes quite quickly. Most of these forces are outside of our control.

It’s easy to focus on the challenges in our life — our losses and our disappointments. But what is in our control? We are still able to cultivate sources of wealth: gratitude, loving kindness and generosity of spirit.

An ancient parable says that 36 saintly men and women secretly hold our world together and help make it a better place. I have always thought of Beulah as one of the secret 36. At a difficult time in my life, she gave me her attention, her love and her wisdom. She helped me become a better person.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

Talk to us

More in Life

Flytrap, Carnivorous plant. ( Dionaea muscipula ), close up
Grow a carnivorous bog garden for the weirdness factor

Alien-like plants — such as pitcher plants, cobra lilies, sundews and Venus fly traps — can do well here.

Silver, Blue and Gold, a Bad Company tribute band, will perform May 14 at Historic Everett Theatre. Pictured (from left) are Jeff Mills, Dean Babbitt, Bob Kelly, Steve Kelly, Dan Canyon and Dan Ellsworth. (Tribute Kings)
Rock show Friday in Everett pays tribute to Bad Company

Silver Blue and Gold, named for the 1970s British supergroup’s power ballad, headlines a show in Everett.

While Bulley’s candelabra primrose can naturalize, it is best to plant three to five to insure pollination and seed set. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Primula bulleyana, Bulley’s candelabra primrose

This primrose can naturalize, but it is best to start with more than one to insure pollination and seed set.

This strange looking cast-iron tool is a coffee grinder. Beans go in the top, the lid is put in place and the beans are ground and drop into the lower section mounted on a wooden base. It sold for $413 a few years ago. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
This strange looking cast-iron tool is a coffee grinder

The Enterprise Manufacturing Co. founded in 1864 was one of the leading makers of grinders.

See "Rusty Red Axe" by Scott Filipiak in the "Northwest Enterprise" exhibition in Lynnwood.
Exhibits focus on Northwest’s natural and built environments

“Northwest Enterprise: Working in the Northwest” and “Northwest Eden: Trees, Plants and Gardens of the Northwest” can be seen through June in Lynnwood.

Sorticulture, Everett’s garden arts festival is scheduled for June 11-13 on Wetmore Avenue between Everett and Hewitt avenues. (Ian Terry /Herald file)
Ian Terry / The Herald People look at roses at the Sorticulture Festival in Everett on Friday, June 9, 2017. Photo taken on 06092017
Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

Home and garden events and resources around Snohomish County

Owners Newton and Naomi Kellogg opened the Ulysses Coffee cafe on April 24. (Kira Erickson / South Whidbey Record)
South Whidbey’s abuzz over couple’s new coffee shop

The owners of Ulysses Coffee Co. drive-thru in Bayview have opened a sit-down cafe in Langley.

salmonberries. Getty Images
What to look for when picking wild berries native to our area

You can find nutritious huckleberries, salmonberries, salal, dewberries, thimble berries and more.

A primer on the health advantages of eating whole grains

Brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, popcorn and whole wheat bread offer whole-grain goodness.

Most Read