The real wealth
During the time of King Sukjong in the Joseon Kingdom, he once traveled incognito to a village where only impoverished people lived.
Out of a run-down cottage came incessant laughter. Wondering at this, he went inside and asked the owner for a glass of water. Drinking the water, he glanced askance, and through a crack in the door he found an old man with a white beard. He was stranding a rope and beside him there were a few kids helping arrange straw for their grandfather. An old woman, their grandmother, was trampling on the laundry, and their mother was patching up clothes. Their faces looked astonishingly bright and carefree.
The king asked the owner what good things had happened, as they looked poor but still laughter prevailed upon the family. The owner answered:
“Most likely, the laughter comes of itself because we are living as rich men repaying the debt and saving.”
Returning to his palace, the king wondered how he could live repaying debt and saving in such poverty. So he commanded his men to find out the truth. The investigation corroborated that the old man was as poor as a church mouse. He had almost nothing to subsist on.
The king went back to his house and asked him again about the truth of his statement that he was living repaying debt and saving. Smilingly, he answered the king:
“How could I not be happy when I live returning the debt I owe to my parents by supporting them and saving by rearing my children on whom I have to depend when I am old?”
The king was really astonished at the old man's wisdom and realized what true wealth was. Wealth is in the mind, not on the outside. Happy is he who is poor in mind because he always has as much as he wants.
Today we are living at the zenith of material prosperity and so much of our pure humanity has lost most of its greatness to materialism that Mammonism has become more powerful than God.
Accordingly, filial duty toward parents, parental affection for children, teachers' didactic enthusiasm for students, students' respect for their teachers and fraternal affinity between siblings ― all these meritorious virtues of humanity have given way to excessive materialism, which is represented by money. We are all victimized by the desire to possess more and more of it. So to our great lamentation the Bible should be transcribed:
In the beginning was Money and
Money was with God and
Money is God.
However, look at our ancestors like the old man of the shack in the episode. They already knew what true happiness was; which all human beings are in pursuit of; and the virtue of respect among members of a family.
A family is the basic, primary unit of human society. A good family is a good prop for a good society. Today we are all eagerness to fight for more material prosperity and for that objective ride roughshod over whatever stands in the way, throwing the family to the edge of disintegration and shaking our society from its roots.
This episode tells us again that we should repay the debts we owe to our parents by supporting them and save by bringing up our children successfully on whom we should rely on as we grow older.
These are the real riches we have to amass.
The writer is principal of Polyglot Day School in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.