I recently stayed by myself in an opulent condo on the Australian Gold Coast courtesy of family who are financially blessed, and in turn are generous.
My nephew, niece and their six-month-old son checked into the empty unit with me, got the keys, and showed me around. On our way downstairs from the 23rd- floor we came across two older women.
They crowded into the elevator with us.
The lift-mates were jolly old souls, decked out in tropically colored silk blouses, with several glittering, jewelled rings on every finger, and bracelets on each arm up to their pudgy elbows. Their dyed hair matched youthful days and was expertly coiffed. Lipstick coordinated with fingernails and toenails peeping out of gold and silver strappy sandals.
Like magpies, they warbled about their visit, then focused their attention on my niece and her son. Such kind, fun women they were who chatted to her in the elevator, following us into the lobby and in the parking lot next to her car.
I smiled, nodded, chuckled at the appropriate times, and basically kept my mouth shut while I edged into the background.
Well I reckon I’m pretty close in age and girth to them, so that wasn’t a problem. However, I was in a pair of saggy black, saltwater-stained pedal-pushers and an unflattering top ensemble, my hair was seriously gunmetal gray and white for about two inches from the roots, and since it had been a long day, my makeup had melted. My toenails polished with “I’m Not Really a Waitress” red, and fingernails accented with “Grand Central Carnation” pink were badly chipped. AND I’m an American, so my accent nearly always causes a fright. However, I did have silver and gold strappy sandals adorning my badly-in-need-of-a-filing feet.
Of course it was a matter of time before someone asked a question, and I answered.
“SO! You’re an American!”
Smiling, I said, “Yes I am.”
“Are you staying here very long?”
“For a lifetime” is what I wanted to say, just to see her horrified response. But instead, I said, “About a week. I’m on holiday.” Then to verify my right to stay there I explained that Jacqui is my niece and I married her uncle.
A suspicious “oh.” Or maybe I imagined the tone. Yanks can be oversensitive, I’ve heard.
In the underground garage I parked my road-dirty silver Mitsubishi Magna Sport next to shiny black, gold and silver Mercedes, BMWs, Lexus SUVs, and other spotless and polished vehicles.
When I traveled outside, I was followed by the same sorts of fancy vehicles, even to the Fisherman’s co-op down the road. Even though I felt a tad out of place at times I was amused at how comfortable I felt in the ritzy, practically-on-the-beach Gold Coast condo, despite realizing that I was so out of my league.
But ya know what? I liked it—feeling like I don’t really belong to this lifestyle.
Perhaps some of these uber-wealthy people don’t know, or may have forgotten what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet. I believe “going without” builds character.
While there, I watched a television program about how the Great Depression in America happened with the stock market crash in October 1929. I hadn’t realized that the people it most affected were middle-class people like me. I also hadn’t realized how close America came to repeating that disaster in the latest economic crisis--some call it a downturn; I think that’s putting cake frosting on dog turd. But I digress.
I moved to Australia just before the global financial crisis hit. My house sold for cash before the bottom fell out of the market. I reaped my profit-sharing funds from my place of employment before the stock market plummeted (my boss relied heavily on Wall Street for profits for employees in his company), and I was able to leave the States with a nice little egg in my nest. Australia slipped through the crisis virtually unscathed.
My husband works hard to make a good living, and we are comfortable. But even if we had gazillions of dollars in the bank and investments, I wouldn’t want to change the way we live. I like nice things, just like anyone, and I like to travel. But I’m not into bangles and baubles and high-rises and the decadent way of life that comes with riches.
Proverbs 30:7-9, “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonour the name of my God.”
Here’s to chipped fingernail polish, outgrown hair color, ordinary feet in strappy sandals, a functional car, and my God who takes care of my every need.
Read more articles by Heidi Cramer or search for articles on the same topic or others.