“Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor.
But it’s no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”
Tevye’s prayerful introduction to the classic “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof” likely paraphrases the hopes, dreams, and, indeed prayers, of millions of people this week as the Powerball has climbed to $900 million – and counting – prior to tonight’s drawing. Like them, Tevye knew exactly what he’d do if he became rich:
And as I join the masses in cataloging what I would do with all that money, I thought it would be interesting to see how my fantasies compare with Tevye’s:
“All day long I’d biddy biddy bum. If I were a wealthy man.” I’m not exactly sure what “biddy biddy bum” means, but if it means sleeping late, doing nothing and generally being a lazy bum, I’m in. I know that would get old after not too long, but I’m willing to give it the old college try for a while. Plus I’d need to rest up in preparation for season’s tickets to the Blackhawks as well as seeing every show that comes to the greater Chicago area (which, by the way, includes Broadway).
“I wouldn’t have to work hard.” I have a wonderful day job with great people, and I would really miss them, but you can’t fit in all that biddy biddy bum stuff if you’re still working. And I’m old enough that this could hardly be considered early retirement. Of course, I wouldn’t stop writing. In fact, I already have the title of my first book: “How Winning the Powerball Didn’t Change Me a Bit!”
“I’d build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen, right in the middle of the town.” Unlike Tevye, I’m happy with my current home, and would be content spending part of my winnings on things like new carpet and matching furniture. Realistically, though, it might be a necessity to move, not to the middle of the town, but rather somewhere a bit more private and secure, thanks to the notoriety that would undoubtedly accompany a win like this. Just as long as I’m no further away from my grandsons!
“I see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man’s wife with a proper double-chin.” Who knew? I already have the look down pat! But just in case I think I’ll earmark some money for a personal trainer, regular massage therapy and spa treatments, and a trip down the Botox aisle.
“If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack to sit in the synagogue and pray…that would be the sweetest thing of all.” In the end, Tevye and I aren’t so different after all. While I wouldn’t spend “seven hours every day” on spiritual matters, I think the point he’s making is that the real luxury of being rich is the ability to spend your time and money on the really important things.
As much as I would love filling out my ’round-the-world vacation itinerary (and believe me, I would!), it would be equally satisfying to fill out a full pad of checks to organizations for which a $50,000 donation would seem like winning the biggest Powerball in history. How well I’d sleep at night knowing my loved ones didn’t have to worry about mortgage payments or college tuition. Imagine having the means to start a foundation that would continue to do good work for generations after you’re gone. As the song says, “that would be the sweetest thing of all.”
And now that I think about it, I know exactly what “biddy biddy bum” means.