Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 18, 2005
Its all in the bank account of the beholder
We want so much, others need so little
By SUZANNE ELSTON
Everybody's done it. You buy a lottery ticket and then fantasize about what you would do if you won.
Regardless of the size of the prize, my list stays pretty much the same: pay off the mortgage, make sure that there's enough money in the bank to pay for our kids' education, take a trip around the world and then give the rest away to family, friends and good people doing good work for the planet. (Okay, maybe I'd keep enough to pay for a housekeeper.)
She is content
When I look at my list, I realize how privileged I already am. I don't want for anything, and thanks to an attitude toward money that was ingrained in me by my mother, I don't want what I don't already have.
My family lives well. We have an old house in the country and a couple of acres for the kids and the dog to romp around on.
We have good food on our table, warm clothes on our backs, and occasionally we even manage to squeeze in a family vacation. Our cars, although bought second hand, provide the essentials for comfort and safety: they go when you turn the ignition, the brakes and tires are in good shape, and the heating and air conditioning systems function well. I am content.
Which is why our son Peter's comment caught me completely off-guard.
"When I was a kid growing up I never realized how poor we were," he said. I could use a lot of adjectives to describe our family, but "poor" has never been one of them.
It turns out his definition of "poor" has something to do with the fact that he's ready to get his G2 licence and we've told him that we can't afford the additional $180 for car insurance that would immediately be added to our monthly insurance bill. I tried to explain to Peter that we are rich by most standards, far richer than 80 per cent of the people on the planet, but he wasn't listening.
Which was probably a good thing. Turns out, I was wrong. Thanks to the Global Rich List website, I was able to determine exactly how wealthy we really are. By putting in our average family household income, the website calculated that we are in the top 0.743 per cent of the richest people in the world. To put it in more direct terms, there are 5,955,376,435 people poorer than we are.
Even I hadn't realized how truly privileged my family is. The problem is that we live in a society where everything is judged according to our monetary value. Regardless of how comfortable we are, we always seem to want more.
Consider the famous quote from John D. Rockefeller who was asked, "How much money is enough?" His response, "Just a little bit more."
Shame. Shame on us. Shame on our society that breeds such total discontent for what we already have. If we are truly to live up to our name as "human," we must learn to share, and share now.
The truth is, given the inequities on the planet, we don't have to wait to win the lottery before we finally have enough to share.
We need to understand that what we consider small change can make a huge difference in other parts of the world. Consider the following (courtesy of "O" Magazine):
Ten dollars (or two DVD rentals) can protect one young person in Africa from HIV/AIDS by providing a year's worth of safe sex education, access to counselling and testing; $15 (or a week's worth of coffee and muffins) buys enough school supplies for a child in China for an entire year and $20 (or one fast food meal for a family of four) buys manuals to provide nutritional counseling for 10 mothers in Colombia.
It sounds so simple. And yet in our race to ensure our own financial security, we all too often forget that we already have more than enough.
The Global Rich List is located at www.globalrichlist.com.
To donate $20 for nutrition education in Colombia, go to www.proliteracy.org.
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