The best one-liner from the recent Rick Warren conversations with the presidential candidates came from Democratic contender Barack Obama when the Saddleback pastor asked him to define “rich.”

With a smile, Sen. Obama replied: “If you’ve sold 25 million books…” — causing the bestselling author/preacher to blush.

Eventually, Sen. Obama put the mark at an annual income of $250,000 or more — at least for tax purposes. Republican contender John McCain — who married into great wealth — grabbed the figure of $5 million out of the air to define “rich.” His campaign staff probably wishes he could put it back.

Of course, wealth is not easily defined and definitely relative. For example, our last Atlanta-area home was very nice and part of a neighborhood with wonderful amenities like a pool and tennis courts. Yet it was surrounded by the most impressive gated communities filled with multi-million-dollar homes and private golf courses. The entrances were almost intimidating by their grandeur.

Yet I could drive for miles in more rural areas of the state before passing a home of greater value than the one in which my family lived. It is all about perspective.

Last night my family was enjoying boiled shrimp and baked fish around the dinner table. The remnant rains from Fay had kept the Kroger seafood off the grill.

As I dipped a shrimp into the cocktail sauce on my plate, my mind flashed back to my childhood when a clearer definition of wealth was present.

For me, a rich person was someone who could order a shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. Such treats were beyond our family budget.

We passed over the shrimp cocktail at Morrison’s Cafeteria — but were free to choose a small bowl of coleslaw, carrot-raisin salad or anything primary made of lettuce.

Whenever a server at a seafood restaurant would bring the delicious-looking prawns — arranged perfectly around a glass rim — to a nearby table, I was guilty of coveting something that belonged to my neighbor.

Politicians may struggle to define being rich, but I had some great clarity about the subject last night. The answer was right there on my plate — even if I had to peel it myself.

Share This