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

Happy Old Woman

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.” ~Proverb

I grew up on a farm with a father that was a hired hand and a mother that took care of the elderly.

I had six siblings and was the fifth in line. We had little money, but I always felt loved, not deprived. In many ways I was a rich person.

When I was four years old I lived in a two-room house, with two bedrooms built on within the year.

We had no real kitchen (it was just a room), no running water or indoor bathroom, no TV or telephone. (No, I did not grow up with the dinosaurs). We did have electric lights.

What did I learn by growing up in these conditions?

1. I learned to share.

There were four of us girls and we all slept in the same bedroom—two in one bed and two in another (both twin beds). 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, 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 10th piece was cut into 10 more pieces. (My father got the extra piece.)

I have 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 that 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 fields for the farmers, helping irrigate when it came to watering the crops, 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.

Are you building those kinds of memories? Are people going to smile and laugh when they think of how you touched their life someday?

Photo by T Sundrup

About Debbie Bills

Debbie Bills is a writer, wife, mother and grandmother. As a single mother of three daughters she overcame many obstacles placed before her. Now she is sharing and helping other mothers in her new blog How Not To Raise a Serial Killer.

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