6 Lessons from a Poor Childhood That Lead to a Rich Life

Saturday, October 05, 2013

There is an old proverb (source unknown to me) that says “If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy. “

And there is something about how we grew up that no matter what happens to us will always be embedded in our memories. I cannot look at a picture like the one above without tears coming to my eyes, or listen to Dolly Pardon sing “Coat of Many Colors” without thinking of these days. The tears I feel are not from being ashamed but rather the feeling of having so much love that I cold reach around the world and still give more!

I grew up on a dairy farm with a father who was a hired herdsman. He left his own farm in Minnesota to come to North Carolina because my mother was so homesick that she was coming home with or without him. My mother sewed alterations and made hats as well as work on the farm. This was the love I grew up with! I had two siblings and was the first in line, my brother was the third. We had little money, but I always felt loved, not deprived. In many ways I was a rich person.

We had no TV or telephone. (No, I did not grow up with the dinosaurs). We did have electric lights and a radio and I was luckier than many I went to school with, we had indoor pluming!

What did I learn by growing up in these conditions?

1. I learned to share.

There were two of us girls and we slept in the same bedroom in a double bed. You name it, and we shared.

2. I learned to take good care of what little I had and be grateful.

We each had one pair of shoes, very few clothes all sewn by my mother (including under garments) out of feed sacks, and one toy for Christmas, so we took good care of what little we had and did not take it for granted. For birthdays, there was a cake baked and our present was getting to lick the bowl for the cake and icing.

3. I learned to use my imagination.

With very few toys we had to make your own. We walked on tall tomato cans with strips of rubber attached to hold them on our feet. We played with old tires and five gallon barrels by rolling them on their side. And stilts, we made ourselves.

4. I learned to eat until I was not hungry any more rather that when I was stuffed.

Food was limited, but balanced. We each got our share because my mother cut it up equally among us. (I never knew you could scoop ice cream out of the carton until I grew up, because my mother always cut a half gallon of ice cream into 10 equal pieces and that served us twice.)

In these days I never had a problem with weight, and this is because of the good eating habits and appreciation for the food we had.

5. I learned that it was the people who made a home, not the size of a house.
We may not have had much, but we had each other. We had each other to talk to, play with, and laugh with. (Sometimes to fight with.)

6. I learned to work together.

When you live in a small space you have to work as a team. You learn good working skills and what hard work is.

We earned money by working in the garden, learning to cook and keeping the four rooms of our house picked up, so there was room to walk.

As I look back on my childhood and the values it fostered, I realize I was a very lucky child. Yes, things are much better and easier now, but I know what to appreciate and what’s important to be happy.

It’s the people you share your life with—the memories you build and laughter you share.

Things are not what make you happy. It’s living in the moment and living everyday with love in your heart.

I only buy what I need, which controls the clutter. I have food, shelter, and water, air to breathe, and people to love that love me.

I appreciate what I already have to add comfort to my life. I take good care of my furniture, appliances, and the little things that make life more comfortable and easier.

We have the choice to change our life if we want. With hard work and a dream anything is possible. Obstacles can always be overcome. We learn from them and keep moving forward.

True happiness does not come with a price tag. Happiness is something we choose with our own attitude and gratitude.

I look at people today and all the material things they acquire, thinking they are going to find happiness, but happiness cannot be bought.

It’s in our attitude. The love in our heart. The people we know and love. The memories life brings.

When death is knocking at our door, what will be important is the way we loved and the memories we leave for the people left behind. They’re not going to remember the house you lived in or the beautiful things you may have had.

People will remember the laughter they shared with you, the long talks, lessons they may have learned from you, and most important, the love that was shared.

In the end it is who we were, how we touched other’s lives, and the love we gave and received that is going to count and be remembered.

I was inspired to share this based on a blog that I read daily that inspires me to grow and learn to deal with cancer. And because as I grow older my priorities in life change and I just don't want my life to flash in front of me someday unless it was worth watching!!!!

I have a picture of a woman on my desk (I do not know who she is) who inspires me in so many ways but most of all is the happiness she radiates!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • FISHER011
    I love your sentiments & how you made this beautiful blog to share with all of us!
    Bless you & yours!
    I grew up in a similar lifestyle-thank you for sharing!
    1522 days ago
    If I could, I would send a copy of this blog to everyone in Congress. You learned the basic lessons life early and the key to happiness. I wish everyone could.
    1523 days ago
    Great blog! You are so right!
    1523 days ago
    This blog is beautiful.... emoticon
    1527 days ago
    I absolutely love this blog! I grew up much the same as you, on a dairy farm also. I had 2 older sisters and 2 younger brothers and we shared everything. We also only got one toy for Christmas, and we thought long and hard about what toy that would be before Christmas, and oh how we appreciated it! I never felt deprived either. I feel blessed to have grown up that way!
    1527 days ago
    emoticon Thank you for sharing and reminding us
    1527 days ago
    such a beautiful post & very true love is so important all the best dear Jean
    1528 days ago
    I learned these lessons, too. You said it so well. emoticon
    1528 days ago
    I am so glad you are back I really enjoy reading your blogs While my life growing up was quiite differnet, as I grew up in the city of Flint, MI. My father was an assistant professor at an engineering school (General Motors Insititue, now Kettering University) and my mom took care of us four kids.

    We still learned similar lessons of sharing, loving and patience.

    1528 days ago
  • CHERYLA2012
    emoticon emoticon emoticon

    "It's a different world, from where we come from!"

    1528 days ago
  • GABY1948
    This is an absolutely emoticon blog...I remember these days too! HOW I would love to go back to them! It amazes me that today's "starter home" has to be at LEAST 2500 sq ft and be MOVE IN ready...which means granite counters and gold plated (or platinum) faucets.

    THANK you dear friend for taking me for a walk down memory lane...I picked up a phrase from one of my coworkers when I was still working (and this was 12 years ago)...she always said, "It's a world gone MAD" And it definitely is! I would go back with you to your life long ago (and mine) in a heartbeat! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1528 days ago
    Wonderful post!

    My parents didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, but we never felt like we were lacking anything. A few years ago my mom said when my sister and I were kids, she wished she could have given us more, but I assured her that at no time did I ever feel deprived of anything!

    I liked using my imagination too, and I enjoyed doing crafts, learning to sew, things like that; I was lucky that I had a mom who encouraged me to learn those things.
    1528 days ago
    To Jean,

    This is a wonderful post of lessons that u learned. emoticon
    I have learned silmair lessons one is sharing.... I grew up with siblings so I learned how to share.. And fought a time or two .. emoticon

    Me? My life situation is a bit different while I live in a semi affluent suburb, I still live in simple ways not quite materialistic ( want everything new etc.. Just a relaliblie ( decent product) that good enough for me) and very hands on with creative projects old fashioned yellow note pad to write draw on paper with pencil, some paint with brush on canvus etc..) emoticon
    My Imagation is still fun to do to this day. When I was very little I drew pictures since I was deaf -- I couldn't explain feelings then), now that I'm a grown up, I can explain by words and pictures of a story I write on. emoticon
    Catch ya later! emoticon
    1528 days ago
    Yes We all so learned to respect and not think to highly of our self All so learned to be satisfied with whot we had
    1528 days ago
    You are back, my friend!! I LOVE your blog and, of course, I get a lot of it because how you are struggling with cancer AND living your life the best that you can. Now that you are close to your family, you can continue to build on those wonderful memories PLUS give your grandchildren memories they will cherish the rest of their lives. emoticon

    You still have a great sense of humor - "We had no TV or telephone. (No, I did not grow up with the dinosaurs)." emoticon

    When you talked about using one's imagination as a child, you reminded me of how I used to play with paper and small boxes, and mold the paper into different things and build whole towns that way AND had a lot of fun for hours. emoticon

    I loved talking to you today, my friend. Enjoy your picnic with your family and friends, and have a wonderful rest tonight. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

    1528 days ago
  • LORRAINE10141
    So true, wonderful post. :) emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1528 days ago
  • DJSHIP46
    Thanks for sharing. I didn't have a lot growing up but where I lived I had more than most, but I think it took me a long time to really appreciate what a wonderful childhood I had. emoticon
    1528 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this. My mother came from a poor family. They had the essentials but not much else and my mom became a wonderful person for it. My Granny and Papa did all they could for their six children and they learned to love experiences more than materials. It's good to see someone put this experience out there. As a mother of two young kids, I want my children to appreciate everything they have and to know the value of hard work and earning things. I wish more people my age and younger could fully understand what it's like to be truly grateful for the things they have and to treasure moments and people more than money and things.
    1528 days ago
    emoticon emoticon Thank YOU for sharing.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon Audra
    1528 days ago
    and truely this is why America is so great. People who got down and worked hard. Africa could learn a good listen from this attitude instead of always wanting a handout and being sad for what they dont have
    1528 days ago
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