Friday, February 28, 2014

The Gracious Kind of Rich

I was not born rich. I am still not rich to this day. I was born to a family with very humble means where food, house rent and education would be covered first before any other expense. I inched my way to a better life with the comforts of having a house and a car on top of the basics. It wasn't luck I did so. It was with perseverance as a student, diligence as a worker, and an answered prayer that I marry into a God-fearing family, one that raised the kind of hardworking and honest man that was to be my husband. I believe God presented opportunities along the way, shined His light on my path and allowed me to take up these opportunities. The comforts I now enjoy are hard earned, due in large part to the man I proudly call my husband. My struggles were nothing compared to what he went through to finish college. I will not give his story away without his permission. It’s enough that I say that I am very proud of how far he has come since the time I knew him from college, and started dating him right after graduating from the same university, around the time he was just one of the tens of thousands of new job seekers.

In a country where the rich-poor divide continues to widen with income inequality becoming more pronounced, the rich are pulling away, growing their wealth. I don't personally know many rich people. I am not friends with any one, at least not to my knowledge, nor have I relatives who live in mansions and who can spend with no care.

I quickly checked related national statistics on income. Data last year showed that 84% of the country's over 100 million population had to share 40% of the country's income. Put another way, a mere 16% took the lion's share. That's the reality even with reports of the Philippines posting higher economic growth than its neighbors in the region.

I am overwhelmed when I make an acquaintance with individuals who you can easily say are rich, judging by their houses and cars. The few that I know of are very humble ones who speak and act with grace, oozing of personality honed by breeding. They do not flaunt jewelries nor tote bags in the Prada – Hermes category. They dress simply, belying the signature brands they're wearing. I was recently welcomed into a home of a mom who shares the same concerns with her child as I. I went gaga over the loveliness of their home. I was served coffee and suman at a patio overlooking the metro. Not used to this kind of experience, I was impressed, taking in the country-like yet very elegant details of how the refreshments were served. I would have liked to take photos, but of course, I couldn’t. Such an act would have been totally off. It was a normal thing for them. It was not for me. I was so delighted to see the juice pitcher topped with an embroidered coaster, the coffee press, the wooden tissue holder, the cups and saucers in blue, and shiny white dessert plates. I held back from eating more than one suman. Goodness me! I was not taught how to act in a setting like that. I was afraid I’d give myself away, I only touched the coffee after my host poured herself a cup.

It must be nice living in a big house like that. I could only dream about it. It would be hard to maintain a place like that. It needs cleaners and gardeners. Fancy that? Yeah, who wouldn't, right? But my reality is such that I have a house I can clean myself, where every room and corner is lived in, where dogs make it hard to have a manicured garden. And I can’t ask for more, really. If there’s one thing I would like to have that the “rich” seem to share, it is social graces. I would like for my children to be mindful of table manners, for my daughter to know how a lady is supposed to sit, dress, smile, and kiss. It’s not really to keep up appearances, but it is more to train them to conduct themselves always in a graceful way. We will start by using table napkins and knives during meals. And with a constant note to myself to speak softly, act gracious and courteous all the time. But that’s a feat! J
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