Zen Millionaire: A Father’s Day Tribute

Zen Millionaire: A Father’s Day Tribute by JazminePoe

This essay was first posted on Reddit in the frugal section.

I was home from college, most likely my freshman year. Dad and I had run to the grocery store for something — who knows what. Dad always did the grocery shopping in our family. Given that he wasn’t much one for cooking, I think it was his way of still influencing our meals. As we went down the aisles we spoke about things 19 year old girls and their father’s talk about- classes, friends, money…. I mentioned that I was poor, but so was everyone else.

He laughed at my being poor. “You’re not poor; you’re broke.”


“Not having money doesn’t make you poor. You are smart, you are becoming educated, you have options. You simply don’t have money right now. It’s fixable, and it’s temporary. Being poor is lack of options — it’s a state that is not likely to change.”

I thought of this, and knew he spoke from experience. I remember recently being told a story of my dad’s childhood from his sister. She laughed as she described the situation. You see, there were 5 children, 2 parents, and some grandparents living in their small house, my father being one of the youngest, and one of the shortest. My grandfather had caught a deer while hunting, and there was venison on the table. My aunt describes my dad in the back of the crowd that was gathered around the table jumping up and down “don’t forget me, don’t forget me!” He was trying to get to the table to get some venison, but the larger bigger siblings were blocking him off. I laughed at the story — thinking of my vertically challenged father fighting to get noticed.

That is when I noticed my dad wasn’t laughing. To me, and his sister, it was an anecdote about a particular situation; to my father it was a memory of being hungry. Truly hungry, a much more permanent state.

Dad and I had rounded the corners of the isles and found ourselves wandering back towards the produce section. My dad says to me “Did you know I’m a millionaire?”

Now, I was not intimately familiar with my family’s financial situation. And, I knew my parents had done very well for themselves in life. But, I think I would have noticed if my parents were millionaires.

“Oh are you?” I smirk.

“Sure I am. I’m a Zen Millionaire.”

“A Zen Millionaire?”

“Yeah…. you see I may not be a millionaire everywhere I go. But, when I am in the produce section of a grocery store I know that I can afford whatever it is my body needs. This is the healthiest section, and if I want it, I can buy it. I don’t have to think ‘can I afford a salad today?’ because I know I can. I may have to compare prices in every other section of this store. But, when it comes to the fruits and vegetables, I don’t have to question if I can afford it. That makes me a Zen Millionaire.”

Since that day I’ve been broke many of times — on and off, never permanent. But, to this day when I walk into the produce section of a grocery store I remind myself that those things that are healthiest for me, I can afford. I don’t have to jump or wave my arms or beg to be noticed…. I can afford to buy what is healthiest for me, even if it means sacrificing elsewhere. And, I’m pretty sure, that makes me a Zen Millionaire too.

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