How Much Is Enough?


One morning, when my daughter was 6 years old, I found her staring at her dresser sobbing. I couldn’t imagine what could be making my typically grounded, level-headed little girl so upset.

“I don’t know what to wear,” she winced. I looked at her sternly and said, “I never want to see you crying about clothes again—unless it’s cold outside and you don’t have any.” I went on to explain how lucky she was compared to most people in the world.

Then, I flashed on a conversation with my immigrant grandfather. When I was in my early 20s and he was well into his 80s, I was the designated family shopper and, for birthdays and Father’s Day, would often buy him a shirt or pants that were more stylish than his everyday clothes. Time and again, he would sweetly but emphatically say in a heavy accent, “I only have two arms, how many sweaters do I need?” Or, “I only have two legs, how many pairs of pants do I need?”

On Long Island, many kids think they need one more of everything. But, it’s rarely about need. It’s about want.

Even the least materialistic family around here has so much more than most people around the world. When I was researching an article about being environmentally conscious, I came across the statistic that North America is home to a mere 8 percent of the world’s population yet consumes a third of its resources, produces half of its garbage and the average American family has 10,000 items while worldwide it’s just 127. And, I can only imagine that the number is even higher in Nassau County.

We are lucky to have access to everything we need and want but, in this land of plenty, how can we make our kids understand the difference?


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