People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are beyond rich. That doesn’t make them bad people and we shouldn’t hold anything against them or their wealth, but the amount of money they have can make the word ‘rich’ seem like an obscenity. Gates and Buffet are generous, through foundations and other organizations they give back to the world that gave them their wealth in grand and purposeful ways.
Merriam-Webster defines counterpoint as, “the combination of two or more independent melodies into a single harmonic texture…” There are counterpoints to the Gates and Buffets of the world, and I recently discovered one here in Namibia.
My language instructor, Martha Bezuidenhout (lovingly called Auntie Martha), recently told me a story of a time in her childhood when her family was rich.
This was back during Apartheid and her father worked on a dairy farm. Circumstances occurred where her father needed to buy a cow to support his family’s need for milk (more on that story in an upcoming post), so he asked his employer if he could buy one of the cows on the farm. His employer agreed and in the following years Martha’s father was able to expand his cattle holdings into a nice sized herd and was able to sell cream to others, thus further supplementing the family’s income. When a cow was butchered they just gave away any meat they didn’t use themselves to others in the community. Because her family owned cows and had a small plot of land on which to grow crops her family always had food, even enough to share with those less fortunate. As Auntie said with a gleam in her eyes as she smiled at the memory, “We were so rich!”
To Auntie Martha the term ‘rich’ meant to not know hunger, and to be able to help reduce hunger in her village. The memory of her father’s industriousness and ability to provide for his family, his wealth, is an important part of who Martha is. Her father’s wealth, small compared to a well paid technician in a Fortune 500 company in America, was enough to define and shape a person who went on to become a teacher and, in turn, positively affected the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of students.
And now she has positively affected me with her warmth, patience, insight, and intelligence.
Martha Bezuidenhout is not rich monetarily, her wealth lies in a lifetime of knowledge and experience, and her ability and need to share that wealth enriches the lives of all she comes in contact with. She and those like her are the counterpoints to the Gates and Buffets, who, together and in their own way, give to make the harmonic texture of our world richer.
Your post is profound Vern. When people blast the rich for simply being rich (which I’m so tired of), as if they are evil by default of their income, your words put perspective on wealth in a realistic and honoring way. Do the filthy rich sometimes lose touch with reality and common folks? Yes. But do the filthy poor sometimes lose touch with how to ask to purchase a cow and then multiply it? Yes again. I don’t think the point of our existence has anything to do with how much money we make, but rather how much love we make. And love, just like hate, does not give a damn about our income. I am thankful that brilliant people like Gates and Buffet have distributed their wealth in the same manner Auntie Martha’s father distributed his. May we all focus on the true essence of wealth and stop worrying about how much money each of us makes.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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