A Weekly Essay by Headmaster Palmer Bell
It has become an informal, one word way to share best wishes at partings of acquaintances and friends; it even crops up as you gather your purchases from businesses. The word? ENJOY! As we sharpen our gaze on summer vacation, ENJOY! You’re talking a family road trip to a new destination, ENJOY! It is time to head to summer camp in the mountains, ENJOY! You’ve baked your first pineapple upside down cake, ENJOY!
What does it really mean to enjoy? The word’s Latin and French roots imply that we should recognize two connotations; we are to both rejoice and to share joy. I love the reminder that enjoying is both internally and externally focused.
When John G. Wendel immigrated to the United States in the late 1700’s he became a highly successful fur trader with his new friend John Astor. The successful trading allowed each man to invest in New York City real estate. Somewhat sadly, the Wendel family story became a weird one as the wealth accumulated and the generations passed. Suffice it to say that the Wendel family defined the “1%“, long before the characterization developed its contemporary meaning. The family investment strategy resembled the worst attributes of an adversarial Monopoly game. As the Wendels invested, three simple rules were mantra: they never mortgaged, never sold and never paid to repair any acquisitions. The reclusive John G. Wendel II was the final male heir and he never enjoyed the trappings of wealth. His wardrobe was valued at $10. He lived in the same deteriorating house (remember Rule 3) for 50 years and he convinced his six sisters to also avoid marriage and to join him in the house. The youngest sister, Ella, watched her siblings pass away in turn, until she too died in 1931. Even then the estate was valued at over $100 million dollars! Yet, Ella was buried in the only dress she owned; a simple frock she had made herself some 25 years earlier.
In life, and certainly in the course of each school year, we accumulate knowledge, skills, friendships and perhaps eventually wealth of other kinds. ENJOY! Rejoice and share. Spend some of the education you have gathered. Read a challenging book, write the story or poem you’ve been thinking of, or use your new self-esteem to try a new sport, craft or activity. Spending your “wealth” will provide perspective on its true value. ENJOY!