Empty show and glory

Today, I had the pleasure of having lunch at a friend’s place. While her home was old, there was a lot of happiness and synergy between her sister, the long-serving maid (treated as a member of the family) and father. The house didn’t have designer furniture or fancy architecture, but I told her I could feel it was a ‘comfortable’ house.
I’ve known my friend for a while and have heard about her family, and today, everything was consistent with what I heard.
Sometimes, when I see such places and people, it makes me think about what we ourselves have made of our lives, and how we value material things versus people. What do we place a higher priority on – the desire to achieve a higher social status (or the need to keep up appearances), or being satisfied with what one has?
In short, would you rather have the life of Veronica, or Betty?
I have been thinking about it for a while. I would far prefer living in a simple home where people respect each other and get along, than in a big house with famous people, earning lots of money, but with a greater share of unhappiness. Sometimes there can be much more stress living in a complicated, high-achievement environment where the slightest mistake is judged and remembered for years to come. Material things become valued more highly than people, and status more important than relationships.
We tend to think that the economically disadvantaged may have unhappier lives because they cannot buy the things they want. Yet some people from poorer countries can be happy, too. Conversely, some rich people are never satisfied because you can never have enough money. There will always be someone richer, smarter, more powerful than you, and even if you’re number 1, it’s only for a while.
Meanwhile, to get to the top of the ladder, you must have stepped on some toes, and you may meet these people on your way back down. And you never know for sure who your real friends are, because to them, you came packaged with worldly offerings, which tend to attract worldly people.
In the end, it’s when you retire from all vestiges of power that you discover who your real friends are. And it’ll be on your deathbed that you’ll rediscover who your loved ones are.