By Kip Kolson, Special for The Times USA
This story was recently circulated through emails. I do not know if it is real, but the message certainly is.
“Recently I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. Standing near the security gate, they hugged, and the father said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’ The daughter replied, ‘Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.’ “
“They kissed, and the daughter left. The Father walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’ ‘Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?’. ‘I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is the next trip back will be for my funeral,’ he said.”
“’When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?’”
“He began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone. He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’ Then turning to face me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.”
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.”
“I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.”
“I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.”
“I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.”
“I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.”
“I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.”
“I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye. He began to cry and walked away leaving me to absorb the wisdom he had shared.”
When is enough, enough? What happens when enough is not enough? It is called discontentment, which leads to envy, jealously, negative competition, and conflicts in families. Let me share a proverb. “This is the case of a man . . . who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, ‘Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?’ It is all so meaningless and depressing.”
Think about any family you know, have heard or read about, or maybe your own family; where there have been fights and lawsuits over dividing up the inheritance. Even in families where each person inherits millions of dollars, that should be more than enough to have a comfortable lifestyle, the root of all the conflicts is discontentment that they did not get what they believe they deserve.
We are never satisfied. Marketing firms rely on discontent to sell us everything we do not need. I was once told, and I believe it is true, that a luxury once acquired becomes a necessity.
Houses and cars are meant to shelter and transport us. Cars are a necessity in our world today, but does a $100,000 vehicle get us to our destination faster than a $25,000 one? Sure, the more expensive car has more gimmickry and comfort features and probably burns more fuel, but is all that other stuff really worth another $75,000? I imagine you are thinking about arguments right now why that price tag is justifiable. But ask yourself, “Really?”
Does a 4,000- or 5,000-square-foot home provide more protection from the elements than a 2,000-square-foot home does? Does a sixty-inch flat screen get shows we can’t get on a thirty-seven-inch screen? I am not suggesting it is wrong to own nice things, only that we should ask ourselves why we are buying expensive examples of this or that when less-expensive alternatives exist and are adequate to meet our needs, and there are more productive uses for the money.
Question here: are you content right now with what you have? If not, will owning more things bring you contentment? If you answer yes to this last question, then please describe exactly what you need to own or how much more money you must have to bring you contentment and why it would do that.
“I want it!” The questions are, what do you want, why do you want it, do you really need it, and will having it help or hurt you or anyone else? Within a family, satisfying one person’s desires means someone else in the family must give up something he or she wants or needs. Depending on the severity of everyone’s wants and needs, conflicts are almost sure to ensue.
Uncurbed desire is hazardous to a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual health. Children who get everything they want most often become spoiled brats and grow up to be leeches. We unfortunately live in a world that caters to every sensual desire a person can experience—drugs, alcohol, food, sex, fame, fun, work, and money to name a few. None of these is bad in itself (illegal drugs excluded), but when indulged in to excess, they can destroy marriages, families, careers, relationships, and lives. Wealth, or more accurately the pursuit of wealth for selfish reasons, is a subtle drug that can easily addict anyone not equipped to manage it wisely as a tool rather than worshipping it as a god.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines greed as “an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.” The first four words are excessive desire, needs, and deserves. Excessive desire implies being out of control. We all want what we need and deserve and maybe even more, but excessive desire is obsession, “a compulsive, often unreasonable idea or emotion.” The Collins English Dictionary adds that greed “often is associated with anxiety and mental illness.” Needs are relatively identifiable and quantifiable. Food, water, air, clothing, shelter, and in today’s world, transportation and communication are viable needs; but we should be careful we do not move into the “excessive desire” zone.
Who decides what we deserve? Do we decide for ourselves? If so, who says that what we believe we deserve is what we deserve? The truth is no one deserves anything; you have to earn it, but just because we may be able to afford it, does not mean we need or deserve it. It could still be that discontent is driving us to unhappiness.
If having a joyful, loving, and happy family and life are what you really want, then “I wish you enough!”
Kip Kolson is the president of Family Wealth Leadership, a multi-family office and family coaching firm, and author of You Can Have It All; Wealth, Wisdom, and Purpose—Strategies for Creating a Lasting Legacy and Strong Family. You can order your copy at Amazon, the FWL website below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org