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When I was in my twenties, I worked for a bank, so I was privy to a lot of confidential information. There was one guy who would come into the bank on a weekly basis. He drove his Porsche up to the front, parked where we could all see his car, and proceeded to flirt with every single female employee. He was dressed to the nines, and the other customers in line must have thought he was a big shot. But what they didn’t know was that when he came up to the wicket and took out $500 in cash, he was emptying his account. He was deeply in debt, he had flags all over his accounts for bounced checks and whatnot, and when he took money out, there were only pennies left.

And then there was this older guy. He was never dressed well–I mean, he really looked sloppy. His hair wasn’t combed. He smelled, if I have to be honest. And he’d come with this grubby pile of bills tied together with a dirty elastic. Those were the bills of his extended family. He was incredibly wealthy and paid of a lot their living expenses. When he took about $100 in cash, he left $500,000 in his checking account.

From outward appearances, who was the successful one?

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I’m not saying that money is the grand indicator of success, but I am saying that it’s hard to judge what people don’t flash about, financially and otherwise.

I’m glad I worked that job, even though I truly loathed bank work, because it taught me a lot about appearances. It’s a whole lot harder to jump to conclusions about someone when you realize how very little we see on the outside.

Life can be weird. A decade or two can turn all sorts of tables. The ones who seemed so flashy can bottom out. The ones who seemed to start out so slowly can end up on top. But after a few decades, you start to realize how little those trappings of success matter in the grander scheme. We only have so many years on this planet. We’re just a bunch of people doing our best with the cards we’ve been dealt. And we’re all getting older, our years being used up.

I truly believe that when our lives end, there is a Heaven, and the money, the “success,” the appearances, will no longer matter a bit. It’ll just be bare souls, starting a new journey. And the ones who seemed the least exciting on Earth, just might be the most beautiful souls on the other side.

The most important things we’ll ever know about other people are buried deep beneath the surface.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

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