"Fiddler on the Roof" is one of my favorite musicals. Like the main character Tevye, a poor Jewish milk man, I have dreamed of being a rich man. I can relate when Tevye sings, "Lord who made the lion and the lamb, you decreed I should be what I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?"
In many parts of the world nearly all Americans would be considered wealthy. By American standards, however, I'm still singing with Tevye.
As a man grows older he begins to evaluate his years. I have come to the conclusion that while I am not a rich man in the sense of Tevye's yearning, I am wealthy in other ways.
For instance, I was blessed to be born into a loving family with Christian parents who taught their kids right from wrong, responsibility and common sense. Money cannot buy that!
God blessed me with a beautiful wife who, I believe, is one of the few women in the world who could stand to live with me for so many years. Some days even she struggles. And I have two great children who I wouldn't trade for anything!
A couple of Saturdays ago I received an e-mail from an acquaintance from my news writing days. Back then he was a teenager who was a high school sports stringer; he called me with his school's sports information. I remembered him as a sharp young guy with a strong work ethic and a great personality. Though I had often wondered whatever had happened to him, it had been nearly 40 years since we last visited.
His e-mail reminded me that I have been blessed with many acquaintances and friends over the years.
After nearly 65 years of living in a number of different communities and having traveled the state extensively, I have met a lot of people. My jobs have all been people-oriented and I have more relatives than you can shake a stick at.
Colleagues tease me about it. My boss tells folks, "Arvid knows everyone in Iowa."
That's an exaggeration, of course, but I acknowledge that I have been blessed with many friends and acquaintances around the state and elsewhere.
I recently helped a friend work at a booth for his company at an Iowa Cubs game. Standing by the booth attempting to draw attention to the product for sale, I saw a lot of friends and acquaintances. Commenting on the success of the evening, my friend's wife said, "We'll be okay as long as Arvid keeps bringing in his friends and acquaintances."
About a decade ago I purchased what I thought were good seats for a show in Branson. My wife warned that it was from these seats the entertainers select folks to come up on stage to make fools of themselves. With great bravado, I declared that no one could make me go on stage if I didn't want to.
Wouldn't you know it? About 45 minutes into the show one of the cast members came down from the stage and asked me join her on stage. My boldness vanished and I followed her like a lamb unto slaughter. I went along with the gags and had fun doing so. After all, we were more than 400 miles from home; no one knew me there.
At the intermission, however, an old friend from Sioux City came down the aisle and "congratulated" me on my performance (of making a fool of myself.) A moment later a woman from our church back home came down to say she couldn't wait to tell the folks at church about my Branson debut.
So, I even had friends in Branson keeping an eye on me.
One of my joys of life is getting acquainted with strangers. You never know which of those strangers will become a good acquaintance and even a friend.
As a man grows older he is wise to take an inventory of his wealth. Whatever I lack in an investment portfolio, I have in family, friends and acquaintances.
My sentiments are nothing new. More than 2,000 years ago the old Greek guy, Euripides, wrote, "It is a good thing to be rich, it is a good thing to be strong, but it is a better thing to be beloved of many friends."