Wealth is measured by the heart



I was indulging in one of my favorite hobbies, in one of my favorite stores, when I noticed her standing next to me. I recognized her immediately and walked over to say hello. It took a few moments for her to position me, but when she did, she smiled and moved towards me for a hug.

I was indulging in one of my favorite hobbies, in one of my favorite stores, when I noticed her standing next to me. I recognized her immediately and walked over to say hello. It took a few moments for her to position me, but when she did, she smiled and moved towards me for a hug.

We don’t hug a lot these days, and despite my reservations and lime green mask, I hugged her very briefly.

She was dressed in bright orange leggings, a red and black barn jacket, sandals accompanied by woolen socks and a polka dot scarf woven in and out of her very dark hair. Her voice had changed over the years, now hoarse and almost breathless. We chatted about the wonderful array of bright seasonal items that surround us, tempting and almost irresistible. She informed me quickly and methodically about her present and past life. She was in her second marriage, was a proud grandmother and very happily informed me that her second husband was a great provider and the love of her life. I told him about my life since high school; a life that did not include children or grandchildren. I told her about my upcoming marriage to a man I loved deeply, and quite unexpectedly, she hugged me again.

In Caribou High School many years ago it was colorful in every way; singing and dancing from one class to another, surrounded by her peers. She was married right out of high school and moved to the Midwest, raising her family long before she was 20 and loving her role as a housewife.

“I never wanted to work outside of my home,” she said. “I had no interest in going to college. My biggest interest was my babies.

I felt that pain deep inside me as she pulled out of her wallet pictures of babies with frayed hair wearing tiny mittens to protect their rosy cheeks from scratching fingernails. As I envied him. I congratulated her several times, delighted with the love and pride in her eyes every time I complimented her. I assured her that she had received the greatest gift of all: her children. Her babies.

We parted with another hug – one I didn’t even think twice about – and I watched her drive her cart to the checkout line. I walked to the back of the store, my mission to find colorful towels for the next vacation.

Most of us aspire to success. Financial security. A noble career. An impeccable reputation or a revered place in the community. We want our children to excel and change the world someday, long after we are gone. We all have our own versions of success, too. Can it be found in bespoke suits, a backyard pool, a new car in the backyard, an exotic vacation, or whatever? That day, I had the honor of being in the presence of a successful woman. Its wealth is immeasurable. She is not in competition; she won the race a long time ago. She doesn’t care about fashion; it is beautifully adorned with color, sparkle and comfort.

When I reflect on a life well lived, it will be at the forefront in my mind and in my heart. And the best part of all? I was able to hug her three times.

Be careful in all ways, my friends. Let us be kind to one another and, most importantly, count our many blessings.

Belinda Ouellette lives in Caribou with her Goldendoodle, Barney. You can email him at [email protected]

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