Well now give me money
A lot of money
Wow, yeah, I wanna be free
Oh I want money
That's what I want
That's what I want, well
Now give me money
A lot of money
Wow, yeah, you need money
now, give me money
That's what I want, yeah
that's what I want
–“Money,” the Beatles
Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman
–“Taxman,” the Beatles
If you live in the US, then you know why I’m writing about money and taxes. April 15 is the day for filing federal and state tax returns. I can hear you groaning now. But this isn’t a post about taxes, or even about money really. It’s about...
Well, actually it’s about a lovely evening I spent recently in the company of several people from Haiti. One was one of my taekwondo instructors. His brother, a businessman, was also there. Three were martial artists visiting from Haiti to compete in championships. (One of those is the national champion of Haiti and will be competing in the Olympics.) And one was a refugee from the earthquake in Haiti two years ago, now living here in Oregon. We sat at a round table in a Vietnamese restaurant. French, Creole, and English languages whirled around along with the excellent food on the rotating tray in the center of the table.
Naturally, the conversation turned to the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti and the continuing desperate conditions in a country which was already among the poorest in the world. When I asked the visitors about their impressions of the US, what seemed most surprising to them, apart from the cold weather, was how selfish we are. They expressed it much more tactfully, but what they observed is that we are not always quick to share what we have.
In Haiti, people share naturally, generously, and frequently. It doesn’t matter how little you have; if someone needs something, you give it to them. They mentioned the example of phone minutes. In Haiti, pre-paid phone minutes are easily transferred from one phone to another. If someone needs minutes, someone else will simply send some over. Food, clothing, and other things are shared just as readily.
In times of crisis, I think Americans are like that. We are quick to offer aid within our own borders and elsewhere when disaster strikes. I like to think that I am generous. But then, I am blessed with abundance unknown in much of the world, unknown in much of my own country, for that matter. Oh, there are lots of people with more than I have, but by the reckoning of a friend who considers everything beyond her basic needs as wealth, I am wealthy indeed.
Why is it, then, that I sometimes get nervous about money? Not all the time. I generally live with financial confidence, but every now and then I feel a wave of uncertainty shift the sand under my feet and I start to fret. When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much more money he needed to be satisfied, he famously replied, “Just a little bit more.” As ridiculous as that sounds, considering his unprecedented wealth, sometimes I get it.
Where does that anxiety come from, that fear that however much I have might not be enough? I have more money now than I did when I was younger, but the fear comes and goes in the same way. I have to conclude that the fear is unrelated to a particular dollar amount and will not be soothed by any specific increase in my bank account.
Unlike sudden disasters, when the economy gets shaky, charitable giving goes down. Our tendency is to hold tighter to what we have, to circle the wagons with guns pointed outward, to bolt the doors, to look away from those in need. When the good times return, we give from our sense of abundance. What’s wrong with this picture?
Let me stop here and say that I am not pointing fingers or trying to make anyone feel guilty or stingy. What I am really trying to do here is express curiosity about my own relationship with money. Why am I the way I am and not more like people in Haiti, for example? I’m not suggesting that I should go sell everything I have, as Jesus advised the rich young man, but perhaps I am suggesting that I could be a better steward of the abundant resources I have been blessed with.
I could start by being more like the lilies of the field and give up worrying. How foolish I feel to worry when I am sitting in a house with indoor plumbing, full of food with a grocery store full of even more food just a few blocks away. I could keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities to share, to meet a need, to lend a hand, to offer comfort.
And yes, I could pay my taxes with a willing spirit. Warren Buffett says the tax code is unjust if it allows him to pay less taxes than his secretary. I’m not in his league, but I understand what he is saying. If I enjoy the benefits of living in a state and in a country that I love, and I do, then I should step up gratefully to pay my fair share. (Please note that I am speaking about a principle here, not the specifics of our politics or our tax system.)
He who knows enough is enough will always have enough. –Tao Te Ching
related post: Contentment: Priceless
[I might be away from my computer over the weekend. If there is a delay in publishing your comments, please know that they are valuable and valued.]
10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) is a program to help us develop habits to grow a joyful spirit. Many of us sabotage our happiness by habits that we might not even be aware of. Identifying and changing these habits can build a reservoir of well-being to enhance our happy times and sustain us during challenging times.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Just a Little Bit More
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
I actually see where you are coming from. I have been very much the same. I have begun to change as I get older. I can't take it with me so I give alot more to family, neighbors and friends.ReplyDelete
Bonnie, So true. Can't take it with us so might as well do some good with it while we can! Thanks for commenting.Delete
I am often awed by the generosity of their spirit. We afraid we'd give and not recover back. The Haitians can trust their countrymen. So sad that we cannot. It is when we give without expecting in return, that we an truly change.ReplyDelete
Jodi, I had not thought about it in terms of trust. I think you have hit on a key piece. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Kudos to you, Galen. It's hard to write convincingly about why Americans should learn to make do with less voluntarily. I think the anxiety comes from living all our lives in a country where we are taught the first measure of the quality of a life is having more money.ReplyDelete
Because that happens to be a lie, at some point our better nature becomes aware of the hypocrisy and it makes us nervous and ashamed OR we experience fear because we believe the lie.
Having enough to eat and sufficient health and a life free from unmanageable physical pain and a place to sleep in out of bad weather and two sets of clothes is all anyone needs. Everything above that is gravy, and we are encouraged to hoard it. No wonder we only elect millionaires to the Presidency!
It discourages me sometimes that I can't even get my own wife entirely on my side about this, but I've learned to hold a kind of bemusement about our skewed values system. At least we bought a smaller house, on purpose, and got rid of a number of possessions. We aren't dead yet. It can get better.
Mikey, I have had a long and complex relationship with money that has affected my life in all sorts of ways, too many to go into here. But it is something worth looking at. We live in our cultures without questioning some of the fundamental assumptions and then we are puzzled about how these play out in our individual lives. Thanks for your comment.Delete
I totally understand as I too worry sometime about money, and when I look closer I can't find the reason, as I know we have way enough.ReplyDelete
I was deeply touched when I was in Egypt to see how people were caring for one another, even though they don't have much, they share everything they have.
I tend to give more as I move into life and detach myself from money, thanks to my husband.
Have a lovely Easter Week-end Galen Pearl. Take care.
Marie, Like Mikey said above, it helps us to look at the fundamental assumptions in our cultures to help us understand our values, like our relationship with money. We often don't think about it till we see a different way, like you saw in Egypt. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Great post my friend Galen!ReplyDelete
So true this thing about money - the bible tells us that even the sparrows are taken care of - so why this mentality that we have. I believe you answered your thought of question about money. It's FEAR - which is the opposite of LOVE!
Nancy, A Course in Miracles teaches that there is only love and fear, and since love can have no opposite, there really isn't even fear--only the mistaken perception of separation from love. Thanks for your comment.Delete
You are so right again! You always seem to hit it right on the mark. Isn't life grand, (yes even better than money!) ha ha...isn't it clever too how we can pretty much put a well known song to so many paths within our life? "Does anyone really know what Time it Is? Keep spreading your cheer Galen-KarenReplyDelete
Karen, I see from some of your comments that songs are on your mind! Yes, a song for everything! Thanks for your kind words.Delete
Oh wow you are so correct and this is the one area of my life that God constant has to keep his thumb in my back on...I want this and I want that oh that would look good or that needs to go ....new car ...just finished paying old one off...need new dress ....new shoes...and God remind me so many times....how blessed I am ...sometimes I whine like a mule when i want and can't have.....thanks for the gentle reminder this morning how incredibly blessed I am and to be more generous...I agree the Americans are a selfish people for the most partReplyDelete
Rhonda, I think the interesting question under your observation is to ask why we are so afraid, for surely that is where the selfishness comes from. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I agree that we are selfish- we are willing to give but only to a point. Maybe we are afraid of what will happen to us when the money is gone? I know that my grandmother stock piled can goods so that, should we ever go through a hard time (she was raising kids during the depression) we would have enough food to eat. Perhaps some of it stems from that mentality? Or maybe we're just flat out selfish.ReplyDelete
EN, Interesting observation about the depression. Even though people stocked up on things, I've heard stories about how generous people were, handing out food to strangers passing by, helping neighbors. I hope those stories are true. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Wonderful post and I bet the time with your friends from Haiti was nice. Happy Easter weekend!ReplyDelete
Cynthia, It was a lovely evening. Very fun folks.Delete
What a wonderful sharing...I wrote a post for Sunday about "enough" from a different angle.ReplyDelete
I have always been overly generous. My parents were appalled and my husband and I have set limits, because if someone is in need and I can help I do - every time. Now starting my 4th year of unemployment I feel TIGHT - the only charity I support is paying off our child's medical bills. We don't even give to our church right now, but I do share my books at the homeless fundraiser. I just give and give.
I think this is important to talk about, because I do not like how my government is using my tax money - I feel privileged to pay my share - to be enabled to do that. But I also give my time, like starting the women's shelter, Planned Parenthood w/free health clinic, here in town 25 years ago. I also work on funding for the Children's Justice Center - so I give my time and ideas and now they are all struggling to stay solvent - Our emergency rooms are jammed packed with folks with no health insurance and our schools are on the edge - daily (behavior problems abound.
(The schools are out of date and we need to make changes for sure...even in our government)
I think the fear mongers have been going so full tilt we're stupefied and we have several generations of "me" centered kids who are going for the money. We are rather selfish here and that is part of dumbing us down...The prosperity churches are working the fear message to the max - it seems a bit overwhelming to me as to where to know how to start...and yet folks came out of the woodwork for Katrina and I know architects around here are still problem solving for Haiti...hope springs forth and good folks emerge...
we all need a good prayer and possibly a good song!
Happy Easter to you and yours
Patricia, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. And Happy Easter to you, too.Delete
He who knows enough is enough will always have enough. –Tao Te Ching - You bet. I would rather have knowledge than money any time. Taxes? Another post, maybe.ReplyDelete
JJ, Knowledge and generosity often go hand in hand. Taxes? Yes, I knew I was touching on a raw spot there! Thanks for commenting.Delete
I like this...We went to China a few years ago and saw poor people with nothing. We realized we had so much more than we needed and gave away everything we had. We didn't really need it but they did. Even our kids felt good about that..Have a great rest of the week.ReplyDelete
What a great lesson for your kids. Thanks for your comment. Hope you have a good week, too.Delete
My husband and I donate a fair bit to charity. The thing is that we do feel shortchanged when some friends take advantage of our goodwill. However, for the sake of keeping peace, we decide to let it pass. It still does not feel good and maybe it also highlights that we can do better in our relationship with money. If we have a lot to spare, we won't feel that much of a heartache. Still, the situation now tells us whether these are friends to keep or not.ReplyDelete
As for paying taxes, it is increasingly clear to me that if one wants to pay less in my country, start a business.
Evelyn, So true. How to balance generosity with boundaries? That's a tough one. As for taxes, that's an interesting observation about business. Thanks for your comment.Delete
My wise advice.... buy everything you want now because the dollar will soon lose it's value.ReplyDelete
Manzanita, Good advice. Hmm, but I have most everything I want. Thanks for commenting.Delete
My relationship with money needs reviewing too, Galen but for entirely different reasons. I tend to give away money and sometime the causes or people are give too are not very authentic. I have in recent years learnt to respect money a little more. It's a hard act to balance being generous, being prudent and learning how to be secure with little.ReplyDelete
I think, it's a life long process.
Corinne, You raise a good point. Being generous, I think, involves a degree of respect for money. If we are blessed to have it, then there is an attendant responsibility to be good stewards of it. The Bible story of the master who gives his servants money, and then rewards the servants who use the money wisely, shows that there is virtue in being prudent with our resources. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat great post! I love this, and it's an eye opener to anyone who reads it, truly reads it. In fact, I do believe I agree with every thought you have here. We ARE a very selfish nation! But somehow seeing it put into words in your post hits home a bit more. People around the world live with so so so much less and complain very very little (if at all!) Definitely will be thinking of this one all weekend.ReplyDelete
sheila, Thanks for your generous words! If your thinking brings more insight, I hope you will share your thoughts.Delete
Galen I'm not sure if anybody has discussed this yet or not, it's late and I haven't read the responses, in advance I apologize if I'm repeating what someone else may have stated.ReplyDelete
I feel that chairty isn't always just in regards to dollars, sometimes just giving money isn't what is needed. There are many charities where those who are in need see very little, if any, of the funds kind and generous people donate. Take for example UNICEF, last I heard the poor starving hungry children they collect for were receiving one cent per dollar collected, the rest was admin fees. Seriously 99% admin fees!
Sometimes we can do more damange than good when we give money, lets say for example we give to someone who needs someone who we know is in addiction, but we give under the guise that we're hoping they will buy food with the money. By giving money to this person we are enabling them to continue in their addiction, some may argue they are going to get it regardless, I agree but they are not going to kill themselves on my dollar. I'll take them into a pizza by the slice or a MacDonalds and buy them a meal, but I will not give cash. I will also sit and listen if they need or want someone to chat with, time and empathy can go a long ways and make all the difference in somebody's world.
An empathetic ear, a warm hug, a bowl of soup, these are the things which I believe can make the world of difference in some peoples lives. And no I'm not saying cancer research doesn't need donations, I'm saying we're losing our personal touch in our instant society.
darlin, You are so right. This goes with Corinne's comment, I think, about being responsible with our resources. The kind of generosity I heard reflected at the dinner with my Haitian friends was a generosity that flows naturally from a belief that we are all in this together, so to speak, and that by sharing with each other, we enhance the well being of all of us. Your examples of the personal touch are great.Delete
Like you, I am often more quick to give money (or other resources) in a situation locally where I know the money will be put to good use, than I am to write a check to an organization when I don't really know where the money goes.
One of the things I really appreciate about Edwards Center, the organization that runs the group home and the work site where my two adult sons with autism live and work, is how lean the administrative costs are. Over 90% of every dollar goes to directly benefit clients. Here is their website if you want more info. http://www.edwardscenter.org/ Thanks for your comment.
In response to the UNICEF reference...it is so difficult for charities to really work. I had a friend that simply wanted to send sunglasses to children in a orphanage in Costa Rica. There was no amount of money or postage that could make that happen. Charities like Unicef do what is impossible and until we figure out a better way, they are all we have.Delete
Just a thought.
Having just returned form taxes and now OWING the government!!!! I still agree totally with your sentiment, Galen. I actually only came over to wish you a very HAPPY EASTER but got drawn into your beautiful posts yet again. Dashing off to have some family fun (ignoring the Tax man today) :)ReplyDelete
Katy, I know, I owe, too! Happy Easter to you, too. Thanks for commenting. And an extra hug for Sammy.Delete
I really can relate to this too. Tax time is here and my husband talked about our donations. I really never think about it but give what we do not need. My husband keeps track of it. I did not realize that there is a lot of value in what we do not need. Why don't we all give away what we don't really want or need?ReplyDelete
Thank you for this post. It is beautiful.
b, Even if we could just notice and respond when we cross paths with someone we could help, it would make such a big difference. Thanks for both your comments.Delete
Good evening Galen.....Whether it is money, health, relationships, etc......we are harbor fears about SOMETHING. I agree with you on your comment that we have enough...I know I do.....and I seldom worry about not having enough. I was raised in a very, very, very poor family....and I survived...i know I could do it again if I had to....but I would not choose to....if I had a choice.ReplyDelete
And the sharing thing......I think American's do share for the most part....the problem is that we continue sharing with countries that are unable to set themselves straight....and we just keep right on sharing. I do have one question to pose......who will be there to bail out America should we ever need it?? Just me thinking out loud.
hugs and have a wonderful weekend,
Jo, Those who have lived without, as you have, have a confidence that you can cope with whatever happens, and a deep appreciation for what you have. As for foreign aid and government policies, well, there are many opinions about that. But I guess I'm thinking more in terms of our individual lives and the opportunities we have to lend a helping hand. Thanks for your comment.Delete
This is a tough one - you don't want to tighten the fist because it implies and represents Lack. OTOH sometimes you are unemployed or something and cannot pay your mortgage, so you wonder how you can give under those circumstances. Maybe just looking for opportunities to give of the self, give of something you already own, or giving even a few dollars to a worthy cause and above all being appreciative of the abundance you have even when it is questionable as to whether it is truly enough - perhaps what I am saying is having faith that all works toward the good?
Julie, So true, but as you say, there are many ways to give. And yes, faith that it all works toward the good. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I've been giving in time. I need to open my wallet :>) Letting go of my anxiety has got to happen. It is a slow process. Trust is a fleeting thing if you do not put your heart into it!
Thank you for a good Easter read.
Wonderful Easter read.ReplyDelete
It is all about trust-isn't it. I give my time, but that is mine to give. Giving my money- much more difficult. It is mine as well, but it symbolizes comfort and success.
Not very good at it- but you have spurred me on!
Janette, You ended up with two comments, but they are both great, so I published them both. Thanks so much!Delete