Rich Kid, Poor Kid

A blog I blurk at (there are many of those…I’m a self-admitted terrible commenter) discussed the staircase that stands between childhood and adulthood. It’s a post that I think everyone will identify with, in one capacity or another. I certainly did.

I got to reflecting on my childhood, and realized that it was marked by a total lack of awareness of wealth. While there was a class distinction (they were almost all of them from far wealthier homes), the perception of class identity never factored in to who would befriend me and who would not. My house was not an upstairs-downstairs home, but every home that had a weekend potluck that we were invited to was definitely not like mine. The other kids’ houses were large, sprawling, with gorgeous lawns. My house was an “ice cream on Eid only” home, because my parents were definitely working class. It never occurred to me that this was not the norm in our circle of friends, and I don’t think that it occurred to my friends either. We made friendships solely based on whether or not we could stand each others’ company.

Along the way, something changed. Where I was never before aware of the modesty of my own home, I suddenly realized the difference between a million dollar home and a rented middle class home (or apartment). At first, it was a curious novelty: oh my God, a house can cost that much?! And then, it was oddly ubiquituous: hmmmm, so her home, and her home, and hers too…they all cost that much? And then, it was perplexing: why are we living in a rented home? When will we own even a simple home? While I was having that awakening, perhaps my friends from wealthier homes were going through a similar realization. Perhaps they went from “You can rent a home and move when you don’t like it?” to “How come her home doesn’t have a curio cabinet with all these crystal decorations, or artwork on the walls?” to “God, I hope we never have to live like that!” or maybe even, “It might be nice to live so simply.”

And then, very suddenly, we did own a home alhamdulillah…we do…and everything changed. People who were used to seeing us a certain way were surprised (some in a good way, others not so much) to see us “move up” in this world. Some comfortably expressed the ideas like “have nots will always be have nots” and “Allah blesses us with wealth because He Knows we can take care of it.” Immediately after voicing such sentiments, a look of barely concealed horror would appear on their faces, along with the realization that we had once been such have nots. In that instant, I realized why my mother had always been incredibly uncomfortable around certain women. I also realized that while most children become friends because their parents are friends, the opposite was true in my house: My mom was “friends” with certain women only because I was friends with their children. The lengths to which my mom went to make sure I was never out of place…she dressed me like a princess, and fed my friends like princesses too. It’s the kind of mother I could only dream of being.

Sometimes, I wish we would not be able to see what another person has: I don’t want to know if your home is modest or posh; if your car is second-hand or an antique or the latest off the chopping block; if your clothes are name-brand, homemade, or Wal-Mart; if you wear gold or gold-plated; et cetera ad nauseam. Life was so much simpler when a staircase really was just a staircase. Wasn’t it?

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12 Responses to Rich Kid, Poor Kid

  1. Ajla says:

    MashaAllah awesome post!

    I definitely understand you, although for me life has been slightly different, but much the same too.

    To be able to fit in, I was raised in a certain way. Education and ambition is the key to success in this life. Friends come and go, family stay. Don’t let yourself get pushed. Money has to be earned righteously. Trust in God. Be tough.

    I knew early on we weren’t wealthy at all and I knew some of my friends were really wealthy, but it never bothered me and still doesn’t make me react the slightest.

    I grew up with having to share my toys, clothes and space with my sisters. If anything, I took the old stuff, they got the new stuff. Today, I cannot be bothered to be happy if I can’t share what I have. To be wealthy, is for me quite relative. I feel I am very, very wealthy.

    I have relatives which sadly call you mostly when they need money, we rarely had much to share but did anyway share something. They still weren’t happy, thought we were not telling the truth or something.

    – All this has taught me a lot. It taught me not to look at what I see at first glance, the materialistc can fool you.

    I believe money doesn’t change people, it exposes them. We all have this greed in us, somewhere, but some people cannot control it and that’s something I value a lot: control. Freedom to control yourself. If the lust and greed controls you, you’re not likely to feel comfortable with me. I’d probably make you feel guilty and caged. When you look past all that wealth, you see the people and you see the values within which make you want to be with them.

    Whoopsie, I better stop before I go on and on. Thanks for the thought-candy! 😛

  2. realistic bird says:

    A very nice post sis 😀

    Ah yes the luxuries of childhood, it seems so simple then, none of the differences matter. It is a completely different perception of the world.

    “I believe money doesn’t change people, it exposes them. We all have this greed in us, somewhere, but some people cannot control it and that’s something I value a lot: control. Freedom to control yourself. If the lust and greed controls you, you’re not likely to feel comfortable with me. I’d probably make you feel guilty and caged. When you look past all that wealth, you see the people and you see the values within which make you want to be with them.”

    Spot on sis Ajla 😀

  3. Wow. Ajla, that was sooo well said mashaAllah!

  4. Ajla, sweetness…you said it, girl! I didn’t want to stop reading…so you could have gone on, I would have loved it even more! “Today, I cannot be bothered to be happy if I can’t share what I have. To be wealthy, is for me quite relative. I feel I am very, very wealthy.” I so identified with this part. Thank you, hon, for a very thoughtful comment (although I expect no less from you *wub* ).

    realistic bird, that’s exactly what it feels like…the luxuries of childhood!

    Dïgïtal Jêwêl, I know, right?! 😀 MashaAllah!

  5. Hey salaams!

    Wow – awesome post, and inspirational at that too. The comments compliment the post as well – excellent insights!

    I have been trying to cook up a post on memory to commemorate the move of the blog, and havent been able to come up with anything specific, but by reading your post – I know what I want to say!

    Thanks again for firing up my idea bulb! 🙂

  6. Wasalaam 🙂 Wow, awesome! I’ll be looking forward to your memory post!

  7. Pingback: It’s right back there… with the best of them… | It’s as simple as putting the biscuit in the basket

  8. umamr says:

    The post touched my heart. I like your mother digital Nomad, she is really wonderful. And the comments are so inspiring and touching. May allah bless all of you

    UmAmr (Rowaa)

  9. muwahidah says:

    Mashallah sis ajla i really liked your comment.. and jzk sis digi for the post..

    my own childhood there wasnt any of the rich/poor thing. i come from a very big family with many siblings and we too shared the same things. we never had uncles or aunties in the same country.

    but subhanallah one thing i always remember i had many friends from young age and we grew up together, but as we grew older each took their way.. im so thankful Allah guided me to this beauitful deen.. i look back at my old friends and subhanallah they have become so lost and away from islam..drowning in sins!

    when we were young we had the same interest etc, and now we have absolutly nothing in common..

    alhamdulilah for islam!!

  10. umamr, there is no other like my mother, mashaAllah. Well, that’s to me, anyhow 🙂 May Allah love you for wishing well for my family, ameen!

    muwahidah, it is always startling when we meet our childhood friends and realize that we no longer have anything in common. May we all draw closer to Allah with time, rather than further. Ameen!

  11. sabrina says:

    Reading your post reminded me of the hadith — in matters of dunya, look to those who have less. In matters of deen, look to those who have more (knowledge.)
    I think Allah (swt) blessed your family because He showed your family how to appreciate what you had when others had more, but then He guided you to stay humble when he increased your family (by His generosity) in wealth and other matters of dunya.
    Inshallah some day, you’ll pass those values on to your own children:)

  12. sabrina, welcome to this here blog 🙂 Thank you for the reminder of that beautiful hadith, and for your thoughtful sentiments. May Allah show us the way to those with less means and more knowledge! And may He allow each one of us to fully realize and utilize His generosity, ameen!

    I have a feeling you’re going to be passing on some terrific values to your own children one day 🙂

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