Once there was a wealthy man with a strange illness. Each night he forgot his wealth.
He awoke each morning with the fear and uncertainty of a pauper. When his servants arrived with breakfast, he stuffed his mouth quickly, certain the servants would discover they had served breakfast to the wrong man. Sometimes he would grab a crust of bread and run from his own mansion, hiding in the alleyways of the town. His servants would search him out and return him by force to his home, where he was sure he would be punished for his theft.
Other days the wealthy man would encounter his riches one by one, overwhelmed by his good fortune. Still other days he ignored them completely, believing them to be another’s property. And some days he would settle quickly and comfortably into his role of privilege and power. But each day, asleep by nightfall, the wealthy man forgot his riches by midnight only to awake the next morning unaware.
One night an angel appeared to him in a dream and offered to heal him completely. “I can speak the word,” said the angel, “and you will remember your wealth forever.”
“No,” said the wealthy man. “My best days are when I discover afresh who I am. True--it’s a terrible day when I live in fear and cannot accept the blessings, but the worst days are when I ignore them completely, either because of ignorance or privilege.”
Then he made the angel a counter-offer: “Grant that I will encounter my riches one by one, and that I will learn to stop in each moment and offer thanks afresh. I want each day to be a celebration of my good fortune.”
So the angel spoke the word, and gave him the healing he asked for. Over the years a strange thing happened to the rich man. Slowly, yet surely as the sun would rise, instead of forgetting is wealth each night, he began to remember his blessings from one day to the next, but retained the wonder and amazement of a man who encountered them for the first time. In fact, he discovered he was more than merely a person of wealth. He was, in fact, a son of a king. Day by day he saw the benefits and blessings of his father’s opulent, over-flowing love, and shared them with the certainty that the flow would never end. Whatever treasures were daily lavished at his feet, he both partook with thanks and distributed to others at will.
When he died he left an epitaph, engraved for all to see: “Each day has a thousand treasures--most of which I will forget by midnight. But I can thank him in the moment, and the moment can become a lifetime.”