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For Richer or for Poorer

Tonight I attended a concert featuring the Elgar Variations by the Utah Valley Symphony and storyteller Kevin Kling, who told short stories throughout. It was amazing. But what struck me the most from this evening was a brief interchange I had with my parents. My mom was playing cello in the orchestra. After the show, she came down to talk with us, and my dad announced in his German “code” to my mom (somehow oblivious to the fact that almost all of his children took at least two years of German) that he’d gotten a new job. My mom was thrilled and gave him a big hug. From what I’d gathered from my dad before the concert, this job, while an improvement in virtue of a shorter commute, wouldn’t necessarily pay any better than his last one, and his last one was a huge step down from the one before that. As the consequence of hard times for company, he went from making over $80k asĀ  an insurance worker to $15 / hr as a sales rep. Yet he’s said on multiple occasions that while he doesn’t enjoy the sales job, it makes good money, so he’s all right. Relatively speaking, $15 / hr for a guy who was formerly making more than five times that amount is lousy money. But his humility about it all has impressed me, showing an example of one whose heart is in providing for his family, not material gain. After he announced this to my mom, she was thrilled and gave him a big hug.

Now it just so happens that I also just got a new job, with which I’ll be making not much less than my dad was making a few years ago. I didn’t refer to any numbers, but I did tell my mom the news, as it seemed a fitting moment. She was glad for me as a mother should be, but I noticed that her enthusiasm didn’t match what she’d originally showed my dad. It was such an interesting paradigm shift, to suddenly be the big business man while my parents are thrilled to be getting an entry level position. It was a testament to me that life has little to do with money and everything to do with family, especially one’s spouse, whom we suffer the bad times and enjoy the good times with. I’m glad that they have each other, and I’m glad that I have my Teresa. Comparing ourselves to others is worthless. Who knows, maybe in a few decades, hard times will hit again, and I’ll be grateful to get a job as an ice cream scooper while my son becomes the lead engineer for the latest stealth bomber. I hope, in that moment, my wife will congratulate our son, but that she’ll give me an extra big hug, because I’ll still be her number one, for richer or for poorer. I’ve realized that paradigms and world views can change over night, that all we are is dust in the wind, and that before too long, we’ll join our ancestors in the stars. I pray that I won’t lose sight of what matters most, so that when I take my place in the great beyond, it will be in a family constellation and not as a lone star whose obsession with material gain eclipsed the one lesson he needed to learn: to love and be loved.

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