If you had to classify yourself as high, middle, or low income, where would you put yourself? What’s you’re immediate thought? What steps would you take to go from poor to rich?
I’ve heard my oldest son exclaim at times,“Someday, I want to be rich!” Whenever one of my children says something like this, my response is always – “We are already rich.” To go from “poor” to “rich” we need to view our circumstances with global lenses, not just by what we see around us or on the media.
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Wanted: Mindset Shift
As I’ve discovered while decluttering and while budgeting, much of the work first needs to be done in the mind. There needs to be a shift in our mindset from “deprived” to “enough” – often “more than enough.”The simple secret to #wealth. #mindsetchange Click To Tweet
More than 8 years ago, I organized an OxFam America Hunger Banquet for our church. It’s an event that raises awareness of hunger and poverty around the world:
As guests enter the banquet, they draw tickets at random that assign each to a high-, middle-, or low-income tier—based on the latest statistics about poverty around the world. Each income level has a different experience. The 20 percent in the high-income tier are served a sumptuous meal; the 30 percent in the middle-income group eat a simple meal, like rice and beans; and the 50 percent in the low-income tier help themselves to small portions of rice and water….This event is a metaphor for how food and other resources are inequitably distributed in the world. –2015 Oxfam Toolkit Hunger Banquet
When we held the banquet, we set up a nice table with chairs, candles, and actual table settings for the high income tier. The middle income group had chairs to sit on and were served rice and beans with disposable items. The low income tier were told to sit on the floor and they were served large bowls of rice with banana leaves to eat the rice off of.
I was the MC so I wasn’t participating, but my husband was with our two young sons. My youngest son who was 4 at the time, came to me crying because he didn’t want to eat the rice and beans he was being served. He could see the people sitting at the table with ham and salad and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t have what they were having. “It’s not fair,” he cried.
No, it wasn’t fair, and that was exactly the point of the evening. That didn’t stop my heart from hurting for my young son who couldn’t understand. He was hungry and he wanted something good to eat.
I remember thinking of the mamas all over the globe who were in similar circumstances with crying hungry children, but with no other resources to feed their families. I knew I could go home and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my son and he would be content.
The Joy of Less
I recently finished The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. I particularly enjoyed the first part of the book because she emphasizes mindset shifts. She encourages the reader to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and appreciating the abundance of what we already have. She writes:
We simply need to to focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have. If we’re going to make comparisons, we have to look globally, as well as locally; we have to look down the ladder, as well as up. Even the poorest of First World families are rich by Third World standards. So while we may feel deprived relative to the more affluent in our own country, we’re living like royalty compared to many others around the world. – Chapter 9, The Joy of Enough
The High Income Tier – Not What You Expect
Her book reminded me of the Hunger Banquet. The high income tier represents the 20 percent of the world’s population with the highest per capita income. You are considered in the high income tier if:
- You earn a minimum income of just $6,000 a year.
- You have a nutritious daily diet.
- You have access to the best medical care in the world.
- It’s a given that your children will attend school; the only uncertainty is how many years they will study after high school.
- You and your family probably live in a comfortable and secure home.
- You may even own at least one car and two televisions.
- When you take your annual vacation, you don’t worry about your job disappearing in your absence.
- You have access to virtually everything you need and the security to enjoy it.
Here are 8 signs that you are in the high income tier. It's not what you think! #money #hungerbanquet #minimalism Click To Tweet
From Poor to Rich
Does that sound like you? It certainly sounds like us. Our income was recently cut by over 50% in my husband’s recent career change. There are days when I’m tempted to whine and complain that we are “poor.” I have to remind myself to think globally, not just locally. Most of the people I know are also “rich” like us.
Jay mentions a book called Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel, which helps us get a global perspective on what a “statistically average family” in that nation owns. There are 30 families from 30 nations photographed with all their possessions. You can see samples of the photographs online here. I plan to check out the book from our library and go through it with my children.
It reminded of the powerpoint that was created for our Hunger Banquet. This powerpoint showed a typical weeks worth of food and the amount of money spent in varying countries around the world. It is eye opening. Ironically, while I was searching to give credit to the images, I found out that the images are from the same author – Peter Menzel! The photos are from Hungry Planet: How the World Eats, or Doesn’t. Due to copyright issues, I didn’t want to repost the photos we used here, but here is a sample of the photos here.
It takes looking up and down the ladder, as Jay encourages us, to realize that we have more than enough. We are overflowing in riches. We just need to realize it. The secret to going from “poor” to “rich” in one day is to view your circumstances from a global perspective.
“He who knows he has enough is rich.”
– Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher
How would you classify yourself now after reading this post? Did it change?
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Wow! I thought I was in the lowest income tier! But I make almost twice the $6,000!!!
That blew me away!
I truly am rich!!
It’s pretty eye opening isn’t it Melinda? Wealth is so much more than a number – it’s our mindset. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Daisy @ Simplicity Relished says
I love this, Angela!
Thanks Daisy! I know this sentiment is close to your heart and mindset too.
Lynn Wetherbee says
I still remember participating in that hunger banquet you organized. I was assigned rice and water. It was a great way to understand a little better the global economic reality, to learn by the experience. I went home hungry. You did such a great job leading it and then debriefing with each sector afterward. Very eye opening and memorable experience. Thanks.
Hi Lynn! I really appreciate you sharing your experience and your kind feedback. It was 8 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. Thanks so much for commenting. I appreciate it!
Jacky @ Joyful Savings says
Beautiful post! — I think the problem all around the world is that many think that money fills what they are missing inside. I’ve always said that happiness is the capability of enjoying, loving , what you have, little or not. If you don’t know how to be happy with little, you won’t be able to be happy with a lot. — Great to connect with you!
JoyfulSavings recently posted: The day I stopped buying Fabric Refresher & Dryer Sheets!
Hi Jacky! Yes, that is such an important point. Our hearts need to learn to be content with little or much.
Jamie @ Medium Sized Family says
I often try to remind myself and my family of how truly fortunate we are to live in a land of plenty with so much opportunity. Thanks for this eye opening post!
It’s true Jamie – we are so very fortunate. It does take daily reminders to look “down the ladder” as well as up.
It is so important to remember the wealth that we already have! Thank you for sharing this at the #SmallVictoriesSundayLinkup!
Yes it is. Thanks for hosting a great link up!
Sarah Fuller says
Love this post. What a wonderful reminder of how blessed so many of us truly are.
Thanks Sarah. I appreciate you reading and commenting!
I love the point about looking up AND down the ladder. Thanks for the reminder!
Me too Abby – such an important “and”
Erin @ Stay At Home Yogi says
Such a good reminder that even when we are struggling or not exactly where we want to be, we are still so very very lucky! <3
Yes Erin! Without being exposed to how a large majority live in other countries, I would have (and have in the past) defined riches so differently
This is a beautiful reminder of just how rich (and blessed) we truly are. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Merry Monday this week!
This is a great post. Thanks for sharing. I loved it and it is laid out beautifully.
Thank you so much Megan! I appreciate you commenting as well.
Janet Vinyard says
Hi Angela, Wonderful post! I wish people could travel to other countries and see what they have versus what we have in the USA. The first time I visited Mexico I saw a very young boy, maybe 4 years old, digging through a garbage can (at the hotel where I was staying) looking for something to eat. I’ve seen slums in other countries where people had one light bulb and had a roof that looked like aluminum foil over their heads. And then we wonder why they call us “ugly Americans.” This post also makes me think about older houses – we say where are the closets? They didn’t need huge, walk-in closets because they didn’t have as many clothes as we do now. We definitely need a change in how we think about “being rich.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Blessings, Janet
Thank you Janet for sharing your experience! That’s heartbreaking about the little boy digging through the garbage. It amazes me though how joy is not determined by what we own. People in developing countries are content and loving.
Bre Rock says
I needed this post today. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself too much this week because our budget has been tight preparing for some upcoming projects. I needed this reminder that I have a roof over my head, a job (with a Christian employer nonetheless), food in my fridge and a car to get me from A to B. I have so much compared to others who have so little. Today I’ll be thanking God for His provision and this reminder to always be thankful.
Thank you Bre for sharing. I’m so glad it met you where you were that day.
mandy cat says
We all need to be thankful for what we have. But at the same time, I believe a lot of the financial anxiety Americans feel is not a hankering for more “stuff.” It’s the nagging sensation that we could lose everything we have right now through no fault of our own. Working hard and playing by the rules don’t seem to be enough any more, at least not the way they did for past generations. I’m glad I’m old; a lot of young adults have a pretty pessimistic view of their future and I think they’re right.
Hi Mandy, thanks for your thoughts on this. I agree that there is anxiety and lots of different types of anxiety.
Regardless of my circumstances, I have had the mindset that I was rich because I’ve always had family and friends to make me feel rich. I’ve had that mindset because I have had the best of both worlds growing up. My Dad made seriously good money and spoiled me with materialistic items while my mom struggled to make ends meet. That made me value my mom’s love and devotion to raising me more than any materialistic item. (Yet, sadly I didn’t show her my appreciation while I was growing up. )
That’s wonderful that you’re able to maintain that mindset Crystal. We’re so fortunate that most (if not all of us) Americans have more than we need.
Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories says
It breaks my heart a little when I hear my kids say they want to be rich someday or that they are motivated by money. But as a family, we’ve had a mindset shift when I became a SAHM after working outside the home full time for the first 12 years of my kids lives. Our mindset shifted as a family. Even my kids began to appreciate the time we spent together and their friends even recognize how close we all are. We did a lot of wasteful spending on entertainment and eating out when I worked, but we are definitely richer in our lives since we’ve placed more focus on being together than materialistic things. Wonderful post Angela!