Monday, April 15, 2013

Money, money, money...

I wish I had money.  Lots of money.  Millions of dollars, or billions even.

This is a newer wish for me, newer as in over the past two or three years, maybe less.  Maybe it's because I'm getting older and I've got more family responsibilities and I'm feeling inadequate (surprise, surprise, my feeling inadequate).  My mom is poor in money and health (though not in spirit, thankfully).  My younger brother can't find a job.  I've owed my older brother for decades.  I've got a retirement fund with about $3,000 in it.  Both our kids are in braces and pointed towards college.  My student loans are a nightmare unto themselves, and my contract work is necessarily inconsistent.  But it's more than this that makes me want money.

Maybe it's because the longer I live my present life, the more legitimate need I see: that man in the wheelchair, begging in the parking lot, might not need money, but he does need a better psychiatrist.  That girl who has no friends might be trying to hide from the world so she doesn't get hurt again.  She's been hurt before, and no one was there to defend her physically or legally.  That boy keeps getting into trouble in school, but no one has the time or resources to figure out why.  That neighborhood is going downhill.  It started when the unemployment rate shot up.  That lady eats Ramen Noodles three times a day.  It's her staple food.  I've been there.

There was a time when I might say it was easier being poor, but I'm realizing "easier" is relative.  If you live consciously, having lots of money can be just as stressful as having no money, except you can do some serious social good if you've got the resources.  I've recognized this for a long time, which is why the truly selfish rich drive me insanely angry.  If I were rich, you can bet I would not be spending millions upon millions on fancy parties and boats.

Here's my personal pipe dream:  pay off my mother's mortgage.  Buy her a new car.  Employ my brother to market my books and get him assistance so he can finish college.  Pay my other brother back that $1,000 I borrowed from him when I was an undergrad.  Pay off my father-in-law's mortgage.  Pay for my kids' tuition and let them save and invest their own earnings for a brighter future. (Yes, they would have to work--no free rides, ever.)  Get myself a personal trainer so I could finally get this weight off and feel better physically.  Let David work part-time or contract, whatever would make him less stressed.  Eat healthier food (which is stupidly more expensive than unhealthy food).  Take moderate but planned vacations.  Travel more to see and understand the world on a deeper level.

Here's my expanded dream:  find out what the poor really need and get them help on a case-by-case basis, because just throwing around money is not the answer.  It's just not that easy. Neediness is a complicated condition.  Provide scholarships for those entering human services fields.  Give grants for the arts.  Build parks open to the public.  Donate more to my church for specific ministries.  Rent out buildings in order to offer low-cost housing.  Invest in job re-training and adult education programs that have a proven track record of success.  Do most of this locally.

Why locally?  Because families start local and spread throughout the nation and eventually the world.  For example, if I helped one child of one family stop a cycle of abuse and that child has children, then the good expands two, three, four, whatever-fold.  Locally, I can keep tabs on how my money is being used and assess the success of my charitable ventures.

I realize I can do some of this more expansive work through writing and service, as opposed to monetary donations, but it takes time to serve, and that's not time I can spare right now.  Between family and work obligations, my time is limited, and so is my money.  I don't want limitations, or at least so many.  And I would continue to work for pay so my resources could continue to grow.

A few people have said they would not want to be rich because their whole life would change and they would not know who their real friends are.  My response was that I know who my friends are, and those friends would remain close friends.  Newbies would be more like acquaintances.  That might sound close-minded, but to me, it would be a means of protecting my financial and emotional assets.  This would not mean I would not make new friends, but it would take a long time to establish those friendships.  Fake friends usually don't stick around that long.  Besides, I would have legal provisions in place to protect my personal and moral interests.  I don't just give money to anyone, because doing so can cause more harm than good.

I'm a hard worker, and because of that, some of my dreams could become realized, not through playing the lottery (I don't gamble), but because I squirrel away money whenever I can.  I don't know what the future holds employment-wise, and we're certainly not living below the poverty line anymore, this in itself being a miracle considering my background.  So for now, I live in the present and do what I can.  For now, it will have to be enough.      
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