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Value of Certainty March 2, 2011

Posted by sarahsfate in Thoughts on People.
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I know a man who is the epitome of a self-made, American-made man. He began with nothing more than a father and mother in an old wheat farm down on its luck. At twelve-years old he suffered the death of his father, leaving him the ‘man of the house’ for his mom and four sisters. He dropped out of school and got a job. Over the years he ascended through the company from one position to another, moving steadily forward in salary, skillset, and respect. He married at 18, had five children, and remained her husband until the day she died some 50-some odd years later. He became a billionaire in his time. People are (and should be) wowed by him.

But what is the true value of money? I do not ask this question to ascertain the value of the US dollar versus the quid — I mean, what value does money bring? For those living in squalor, an abject poverty so demoralizing you can think of little else, money is like God. A helping hand that will turn all their straw into spun gold. For those living in relatively decent condition but still paycheck-to-paycheck, money is like winning the lottery…allowing them to resign from their 9-5 and spend all their time vacationing with their children. For those living in mansions, money is entirely different.

I contribute donations to the St. Jude Children’s Medical Research Foundation…what I donate is not much but it is what I can afford. And upon receipt of my donations, as with any charitable organization, St. Jude sends a thank you letter with an envelope for my next donation. I feel no pressure. People do not look at me as though I have a genie in my wallet enabling me to pay out any contributive sum requested. However, this is not the case for the extremely wealthy.

For the extremely wealthy, once you have contributed funds, the charitable organization will never cease requesting more help. How can you say no when you have the money available? You can of course, say no. But how will people look at you? For the extremely wealthy, friends and remote family members magically appear as your new best friend. Everyone wants a piece. So what value does money have, to the extremely wealthy?

I can only speculate on what seems to me the most brutal experience of a lifetime, which lasts only as long as the money lasts. Not knowing who your friends are. Not knowing if your grandson truly favors you or if he favors your wallet and connections. When someone laughs at your jokes or attends your holiday party — to have to persistently question why they are there.

I imagine, on a large scale, that a lifetime of this experience is the precise explanation for why he is the way he is. Bitter. Argumentative. Demeaning. Caustic. When you are born to nothing and build your life up to the level he has, there should be some pleasure in it.

As an experiment in examples, I would lay claim (now) to wish never to be extremely wealthy. For I know who my friends are and why my family loves me, and the value of that certainty rates higher than the value of money.

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