Poor Man’s Wealth

Where do the poor find wealth?

Amazon’s recent adventure in New York turned out to be a kind of morality play for me.  I found myself thinking how hard it is to turn down the promise of wealth and how easy it is to get mesmerized by the lure of great riches.  So when the New York community pushed back against Amazon hard enough that Amazon rescinded their offer it got me thinking.

Maybe I ought to dig a little deeper into what I value.  I realized that the community in New York valued Amazon differently than Amazon valued itself.

Frederick Lewis Donaldson, in a sermon at Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925, described what he called the seven social sins:

  • Wealth without work.
  • Pleasure without conscience.
  • Knowledge without character.
  • Commerce without morality.
  • Science without humanity.
  • Worship without sacrifice.
  • Politics without principle.

I first confronted the question of value back in 1979.  I was working with a team in Lima, Peru assigned to find a village where we might demonstrate the efficacy of a unique method of community development.  If proven successful the village had much to gain.  We presented what we thought was an irresistible set of programs that if implemented would entirely transform the economic and social life of the community — kind of like Amazon proposed to do in New York.

The community gathered and discussed the pros and cons.  Finally they decided the project would not add to their happiness; new wealth would bring new problems.  The price was too high.  They said no.

  • I was crestfallen.
  • I felt defeated.
  • I didn’t understand.
  • I never had examined the “other hand.”
  • I was a young man unschooled in the poor man’s wisdom.

An ancient fable provides a clear, simple illustration:

Ramchand and Premchand were neighbours.  Ramchand was a poor farmer.  Premchand was a landlord.

Ramchand used to be very relaxed and happy.  He never bothered to close the doors and windows of his house at night.  He had deep, sound sleeps.  Although he had no money he was peaceful.

Premchand used to be very tense always.  He was very keen to close the doors and windows of his house at night.  He could not sleep well.  He was always bothered that someone might break open his safes and steal away his money.  He envied the peaceful Ramchand.

One day, Premchand called Ramchand and gave him a box full of cash saying, “Look, my dear friend.  I am blessed with plenty of wealth.  I find you in poverty.  So, take this cash and live in prosperity.”

Ramchand was overwhelmingly happy.  He was joyful throughout the day.  Night came.  Ramchand went to bed as usual.  But, today, he could not sleep.  He went and closed the doors and windows.  He still could not sleep.  He began to keep on looking at the box of cash.  The whole night he was disturbed.

As soon as day broke, Ramchand took the box of cash to Premchand. He gave away the box to Premchand saying, “Dear Friend, I am poor. But, your money took away peace from me.  Please bear with me and take it back.”

I do not mean to suggest that crushing poverty is inherently a virtue.  But choosing not to chase wealth?  That’s worth a good, long look.

Just a thought…

Pat and Marsha

Copyright © 2019 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.

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