I married into Wealth, but I didn’t know

 

I married into Wealth, but I didn’t know

Many a time we carelessly use the terms rich and wealthy interchangeably and I say it is time, we asked ourselves what use is it to have two words with exactly the same meaning? 

If you are a student of English, you will realize that many words were adopted from different other languages resulting in many losing their true meanings.

But that is not justification for us to ignore the salient differences inherent in the words as by doing so we also lose the richness of meaning that allows for the nurturing of the intellect.

For years I too would use both words interchangeably but in my early thirties, after reading outside my skill realm, it became clear that doing so was affecting my understanding of the world around me and this was further brought home after I got married and got to interact with my parents in law.

Having been born and bred in the city, I have no idea what it is like to live in a village, the assumption becomes that I come from wealth relative to anyone who didn’t. This idea would get reinforced during our sojourns to the village, likely clad in our new Christmas clothes, glistering like the proverbial twinkling stars.

So, when I met my wife to be who was as she continues to insist “a little village girl” the assumption was that I was from a wealthier family based on the fact that I grew up with running water, electricity at the flick of a button and “splashing” toilets.

Well, all fantasies must come to an end at some point, mine took a while to sink in because accepting it would have destroyed an image that society had cast into my head in granite and thus my resistance.

The signs were in the air right from my first visit to my in-laws when the destination trading centre had a name similar to that of my father-in-law but I dismissed it as a coincidence, little did I know.

Before completing the story of how I found out that I was married into wealth let me qualify the terms rich and wealthy.

Rich: Relates to how much money you have

Wealth: is not measured in money but is the number of hours, days, weeks, months, years or decades one can survive without personally working and still maintain a set standard of living.

When I first read that definition, it caused me serious confusion and physical pain as like many of us wealth was a matter of my bank balance, payslip and personal use assets. If you accept the new definition then you must also accept that the wealthy are very difficult to identify and they exist across all so-called “social strata”.

Looking at that definition, it became clear that my father-in-law had perpetual wealth as he had been “retired” for many years before I married his daughter and was still living the same lifestyle that I believe he lived before. For my mother-in-law, she mainly worked more to keep busy than to make ends meet as they had understood the concept of passive income that I am sure haunts many to this day. 

On my end, I worked to live as in the event that my salary did not get deposited into my bank account by the 5th of the month I was sunk as I wouldn’t have been able to pay my rent, fuel my car or pay the minimum on my credit card. 

The same was the situation that my mother was in for many years until she was “resized” or was it “downsized” during the 1983/5 global recession that impacted the Kenyan economy. My mother as well as many others who worked for multinational companies got laid off as someone at the corporate headquarters somewhere in East Anglia carried out a rationalization. 

I watched a lot of it unravel within the estate where I grew up, people who drove stopped and had to take public means fortunately many of those living around us including my family were able to stay in the same houses as they had cleared their mortgages but nonetheless many still had to adjust their standard of living downwards to be accommodated within the single remaining income from the previous dual income. 

My mother being a widow, was fortunate enough to be able to set up a business that allowed us to maintain our standard of living and if my memory serves me right it actually improved but the concept of wealth was clearly still elusive to her.

I know many of you reading this were unaware of how the 1980s global recession actually affected Kenya, followed by the 1992 structural adjustment program by the IMF, similar to what they are advocating for us yet again today. 

The economic downturn revealed those who had been swimming naked and the situation is repeating itself yet again and the distinction between those who are rich and those who are wealthy becomes glaringly clear. 

I believe some of you are familiar with the case of a local businessman who took a private school to court because they were charging the same fee for online lessons as they were doing in person.

So, back to my in-laws, for all the time they were alive not once did either of my parents in law ever need financial assistance from any of their children which meant that the children could build their own wealth unhindered.

Sadly, that was not the case as many of the children and even some grandchildren refused to learn the wealth principles that were constantly in their presence and thus never gained the knowledge, the saying 'Only in his home town and in his own house is a prophet without honour' sounds true indeed.

Case in point, whenever my father-in-law needed medical attention, he covered his costs and all he would request was assistance in identifying the best doctors for what he was suffering from as well as to accompany him to interpret what the doctor was saying. 

Both of my parents-in-law did not attend formal education but their financial acumen would put myself as well as many MBAs to shame, notwithstanding the fact that they never attended school believed education was an equalizer and so they helped in setting up two primary schools and a secondary school so that the children from the area would not need to walk more than 3 kilometers to a school as was the case before. 

None of them leveraged that fact to go into politics as is usually the case as wealth sees issues in a very different perspective to riches. The fact that the latter is fleeting could explain why some of us will only give if we can see a financial return from the activity.

It is unfortunate that those schools today are struggling as many of those who benefited left to join my ilk and me in the city in accumulating the trappings of wealth while forgetting to look back at what got them to where they are today and at least make sure that the same opportunities were extended to others. 

They also were not very religious but they assisted all the denominations of churches in the area when they were raising funds for their various projects and at no time demanded a plaque to be put up in their honor. 

But the true sign that I had married into wealth was when, even though she was in a coma, my mother-in-law still had all her affairs in order and it is my wish and expectation that I will be able to do the same and not become a burden on my children and relatives and that is the lesson I have learned by marrying into wealth.

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