10 Things I Hope My Children Learn – No. 9 The Riches of Poverty

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I have been pretty poor most of my adult life. While difficult, poverty, ironically, did yield some precious fruit. I hope my children discover, if they should find themselves in financial straits, the abiding riches of poverty. Victor Hugo wrote, and I quote a lengthy portion of his brilliant prose from Les Miserables:

“Poverty in youth, when it succeeds, is so far magnificent that it turns the whole will towards effort, and the whole soul towards aspiration. Poverty strips the material life entirely bare, and makes it hideous; then arise inexpressible yearnings towards the ideal life. The rich young man has a hundred brilliant and coarse amusements…busying the lower portions of the soul at the expense of its higher and delicate portions. The poor young man must work for his bread; he eats; when he has eaten, he has nothing more but reverie. He goes free to play which God gives; he beholds the sky, space, the stars, the flowers, the children, the humanity in which he suffers, the creation in which he shines. He looks at humanity so much that he sees his soul, he looks at creation so much that he sees God. He dreams, he feels that he is great; he dreams again, and he feels that he is tender. From the egotism of the suffering man, he passes to the compassion of the contemplating man. A wonderful feeling springs up within him, forgetfulness of self, and pity for all. In thinking of the numberless enjoyments which nature offers, gives and gives lavishly to open souls, and refuses to closed souls, he, a millionaire of intelligence, comes to grieve for the millionaires of money. All hatred goes out of his heart in proportion as all light enters his mind. And then is he unhappy? No. The misery of the young man is never miserable…He is firm, serene, gentle, peaceful, attentive, serious, content with little, benevolent; and he blesses God for having given him these two estates which many of the rich are without; labour which makes him free, and thought which makes him noble.”

There is nothing to add to Mr. Hugo’s quote. I hope my children, when they experience their lean years, will harvest these riches of poverty.

About my blog: I am a mom of 10 kids living in Pacifica. The name of my blog, “From the Shoe”, is swiped from Cheaper By The Dozen’s Lillian Gilbreth’s summer newsletter. The “shoe” reference is to the children’s’ nursery rhyme. I mix humor and philosophical musings with everyday events. I hope you like it. From the Shoe artwork by Alec Maloney.

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