a handle holds punch as well
as golden goblets
Valerius Maximus was a 1st-century Latin writer and author of a collection of historical anecdotes titled the Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX or Nine books of memorable deeds and sayings.
Almost 2000 years ago, Valerius asked the question:
” . . . to what purpose is it to place wealth in the first part of happiness, or poverty in the lowest state of misery, since both the cheerful brow of them is inwardly filled with many bitternesses, and the more rough appearance of the latter abounds in solid and reliable goods?”
The rich must be happy or at least, happier than the poor, right?
For one thing, they are rich.
And the poor, well, they aren’t rich.
Yet, as good ‘ol Valerius says, “both the cheerful brow of them is inwardly filled with many bitternesses.”
And “the more rough appearance of the latter abounds in solid and reliable goods.“
Way back in that 1st century.
As an illustration of the point, may I offer a visit to the home of one Robert Cratchit, Esquire in Camden Town, London, about 1860.
“Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long-expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried, Hurrah!
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone, — too nervous to bear witnesses, — to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose, — a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastry-cook’s next door to each other with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered, — flushed but smiling proudly, — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half a quartern of ignited brandy, and bedecked with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
O, a wonderful pudding, Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovelful of chestnuts on the fire.
Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass, — two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.
These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and crackled noisily. Then Bob proposed: —
“A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!”
Which all the family re-echoed.
“God bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
I can’t say I feel rich.
But I can’t say I feel poor.
I certainly can’t say I lack for anything I need.
I mean even old evil Joseph Stalin, in a discussion over a declaration of the four freedoms, asked FDR if when FDR said “the freedom from want”, did he mean “want” or “desire”.
Can I come up with things I desire.
FDR again was once asked if there was one book he could have the world read to understand and appreciate the United States.
“Yes there is”, FDR answered, “The Sears Roebuck Catalog!”
If I want to feel rich all I have to do is go to https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org/how-rich-am-i to find out I am richer than 95% of the people in the world.
I don’t feel rich or poor.
What I do feel is lucky.
What I do feel is blessed.
Smart enough to appreciate my good fortune.
Smart enough to recognize that God HAS blessed with this good fortune.
Smart enough to NOT QUESTION my good fortune.
Smart enough to just want to quote Bob Cratchit and say to you all, ““A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!“
God bless us everyone.
PS: Just before ol’ Valerius Maximus makes his statement about wealth and poverty, he tells the story of Cornelia.
Cornelia is the lady who, according to Cornelia Valerius, “while the matron Campana showed her the most beautiful ornaments of that age, drew her in conversation until the children came back from school and she says, “These are my ornaments.”
This comes down to us as Haec ornamenta mea.
These are my jewels.
Just an old guy with his daughters.
In between the two statement, Valerius also says, “He who covets nothing, indeed possesses all things, so much more surely than he possesses all things, because the dominion of things is wont to slip“