"Money won't make you happy; focus on what is most important in life."
I get the intention behind this phrase, truly. However, I would venture a guess that most people who say "Money won't make you happy" are the same people who have enough of it.
This way of thinking misses the fact that money is directly tied to our participation in what is important in life. Some examples:
Having economic security directly impacts how much time you can spend with those you love. What would it be like if you could just enjoy the snow day off with your kids instead of panicking and scrambling to find childcare alternatives, working late into the night, or having to ignore them during the day so you can work (if you are lucky enough to be able to work from home)?
Some people don't have the luxury of having PTO or being able to go unpaid, even for a day.
Having funds is being able to pick up take-out occasionally when you've had a rough day so that instead of elevating the already high stress level in the family, you could have a picnic in the middle of the living room and spend time together.
Having money means being able to travel to visit family and friends more often. Money means you don't have to turn down outing after outing, which would help facilitate social interaction and build memories.
Drew and I have been lucky enough to have friends that understood our strict financial limitations. We have come up with some of the most creative ways to spend time with people. However, if I'm being honest I would say that it has been difficult for the past 10+ years not to have the options that many others have when it comes to entertainment.
Mental and physical health
Money is being able to go to the dentist when you need it, preventing more dangerous and costly procedures down the road. Money is being able to afford going to therapy to work through past or current trauma. Money can be peace, knowing that as far as is in your control, your family is taken care of.
Money is being able to GIVE and CONTRIBUTE instead of just taking. Giving your time and your funds. Offering to host more often instead of being hosted.
Planning for the future
Having money means that you can pull your head out of immediate survival mode and think of the long term future, which leads to better decision making.
Yes, we are blessed in America. We do have so much. But the way our entire society is set up, i.e. cost of living and economic structure, is different than it is in other areas of the world. And it is not, by default, "easy" trying to get by in this country. I for one never want to shame anyone who is struggling just because we have more than others in the world. Our difficulties are on a different scale than some, for certain, but it doesn't make them any less important. We can be thankful for what we have AND admit that it is hard at the same time.
Right now a lot of people are experiencing, maybe for the first time, what economic insecurity feels like. They are having to make different decisions than they have in the past. They are realizing certain amenities that shouldn't be taken for granted. And they may be starting to identify some of the aspects of life that are directly and indirectly tied to money.
Here is my hopeful challenge: can we all just be compassionate to each other? And not just when there is an obvious crisis. We are traditionally good at supporting each other in emergency situations, though not necessarily on an every-day basis, like when your neighbor, who appears to be doing "fine," still has to use food stamps. Or when your friend is doing well financially and you are not and that seed of jealousy and bitterness starts.
We are all just humans trying to make it through this crazy maze of life, and showing each other love and acceptance, whether we have a lot or a little, is imperative, now and always.