You’re rich

How much would you need to be paid to live 100 years ago? This article asks whether the typical American today is better off than John D. Rockefeller, the famous oil multi-billionaire, was 100 years ago. The answers, mostly, are yes:

  • Better healthcare
  • Better food
  • Better air and water
  • Better jobs
  • Better movies (with sound!)
  • Better phones
  • Better professional sports
  • Better prescription drugs
  • Better internet, airplane travel, contact lenses, and microwaves (because none of them had been invented yet)
  • And, of course, better vaccines

When you really and truly think about what the richest man in America had in 1921, compared to what you have in 2021, do you envy him? Or would he envy you? 

Would you two swap places for any amount of money? 

The answer to that question, as the author points out, indicates whether you are richer than the richest man in the world from a century ago. If you wouldn’t swap your times and generation for his, it certainly says how much more highly you value today. 

For me, the moment that I realized we were all richer than Rockefeller was the sonogram. 

Can you remember the feeling you had when you saw, for the very first time, that ultrasound of your child (or grandchild)? A photo of your baby before they were born! A chance to see if they’re healthy, if they’re a boy or a girl, if they’re developing well, if there’s anything for modern medicine to do to ensure a healthy birth. 

What would kings, emperors, tycoons have paid for that machine in the past? $1 million? $10 million? Everything they owned and more? 

And now you get it for a $20.00 co-pay. 

It’s magical! That’s why you tape the ultrasound to your refrigerator door – and John D. Rockefeller would’ve too, if refrigerators had been invented yet. 

There’s no denying, we’ve got it pretty good compared to the past. And gratitude, of course, is the theme of the day this Memorial Day – gratitude and honor and respect. 

41 million Americans have served in the armed forces in our history, of which over 1 million have died in service of our country. We are thankful for all of their sacrifices. 

I re-watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’ recently, and re-experienced Spielberg’s incredible empathy for our soldiers in the boats. Their nerves on the most fated morning of their lives. The confusion of the beaches and battlefields. The horrible things war does to men and women. And it makes you more thankful. 

Thankful for the teenagers throughout our history who have run up beaches, or ridden in tanks, or crawled through the underbrush at Bull Run, or who left the farm to fight red-coated Brits in what surely seemed a losing cause. 

Because each of them was scared, and wanted to go home, and didn’t want to be at war, and yet they stayed. 

And all of our good fortune is secured by the young men and women who got up each dawn, put on their boots, lit a cigarette or pipe or cheroot, and walked off to fight war. 

We are the beneficiaries of their brave mornings, and we are rich because of it. Richer than we’ll ever know. 

Let’s be thankful this Memorial Day, and every day, for what we too often take for granted.