Dear Helena and Lucas,
When I was growing up, my family and I spent a lot of time shopping. Some of those weekend afternoons were spent looking for deals at malls – to which we had to drive for an hour because we lived in a small town – but mostly we went window shopping. We would browse tiny antique boutiques in charming tourist towns, or luxurious coat sections and cosmetic counters of high-end department stores. Likewise, we would often drive around the neighborhoods built on the local country club, admiring the columned colonials and eaved tudors.
These excursions had two messages. One, that there were things out there that we could not afford, and those things represented a better life. While my mom spent a lot of effort making my two brothers and me feel loved and special in many important ways, window shopping for things that were better than what we had told me that the people who could afford them were better than me.
The other message was that there is happiness in things. If life in our tiny rental were tense or stressed, somehow those homes and trench coats and china would make things right. Those possessions promised a worry-free life. They also took away responsibility for being happy regardless of finances.
When I grew older and started earning my own money, I quickly found that money can indeed be a fantastic asset. But money’s greatest power is not its ability to help you acquire pricey furniture or luxury cars.