I was reading Forbes Magazine a few years ago because it had a headline about how the recession had affected the richest people in the world. (“Billionaire Bust” March 30, 2009). The article summarized the net worth losses of the 20 richest people of the world. They were:
Bill Gates: 18 Billion dollars
Warren Buffet: 25 Billion dollars
Carlos Helu: 25 Billion dollars
Larry Ellison 2.5 Billion dollars
Ingvar Kamprad: 9 Billion dollars
Karl Albrecht: 5.5 Billion dollars
Mukesh Ambani: 23.5 Billion dollars
Lakshmi Mittal: 25.7 Billion dollars
Theo Albrecht: 4.2 Billion dollars
Amancio Ortega: 1.9 Billion dollars
Jim Walton: 1.4 Billion dollars
Robson Walton: 1.6 Billion dollars
Alice Walton: 1.4 Billion dollars
Christy Walton: 1.6 Billion dollars
Bernard Arnault: 9 Billion dollars
Li Ka-Shing: 10.3 Billion dollars
Michael Bloomberg: 4.5 Billion dollars
Stefan Persson: 3.2 Billion dollars
Charles Koch: 3 Billion dollars
David Koch 3 Billion dollars
Brother, can you spare a million?
So what does this mean? Many people are looking at their nest eggs, 401K plans and wondering how they will survive. There are many others who put all of their savings in the stock plans of the companies that they worked so hard to grow which are now worthless. Then there are those who depend on pensions, social security plans, and retirement plans far beyond their control. They have spent their whole life looking at a piece of paper and basing their decisions on the numbers that they see on that piece of paper.
The core of all of this suffering and elation is money. Most people have never touched what they thought was their money. Everything they thought was money was simply a number on a computer screen or a piece of paper. Imagine going into a place which only accepted gold. No paper, checks or plastic credit cards would do. Most people would throw their noses in the air and walk out. After all, civilization is based on plastic and promises to pay. Paleolithic society (65 million years ago) was based upon what you could hunt and kill on a daily basis. Credit is a concept that was invented in the middle ages, a mere 500 years ago and even then it only applied to kings and queens. Personal credit has only been available since the industrial age descended in the early 1800’s .
It is truly a figment of our imagination that we should feel safer looking at a big number on our bank statement. That number is only an illusion that we are safer in some way if it is big, and not so safe if it is small. We sacrifice ourselves “saving for a rainy day.” Can we be so arrogant that we defy the generosity of God and horde our earnings and not share them with others? What karma are we creating by building huge nest eggs and not feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless and then losing the nest egg?
Enjoy your life on a daily basis. Live simply. Love hugely. Hug your friends and especially love those who piss you off. Smile as if every smile deposited 1000 dollars in your spiritual bank account. Seek wisdom and not approval. Leave small footprints on the planet. For those who want to leave their mark on the world, all I can say is “how dare you?” I want to live a life that left a smile for everyone I ever met and left no footprint. From an early age I did not want anyone to know I passed by. Now I want everyone to know I was there without any proof.
So what to do? Forget all of your programming. Find others to help. Give away your clothes. Open your doors to those who need shelter. If you fear the loss of your material possessions, your salvation lies in loosing the most precious thing you own.
Personally, I count my children as the only things I would rather not lose, but I know they belong to God, not me. So if God wants them, there is nothing I can do about that.
So there are a lot of us that look at our bank/stock statements and get really uncomfortable. After all, the black places on those statements in between the white places makes the difference between whether we can have a big Lexus or walk. Maybe we should just buy a bicycle. Or walk. I have met some amazing people on my walks. So are you really afraid, and if so, of what? Is your fear that you won’t have enough money? Do you really believe that? How much is enough anyway?
We need to enlighten up. We need to forget about the bank statements and look for opportunities to help someone else. I was in Los Angeles the other day and was walking with my son through an affluent outdoor shopping mall. There were lots of outdoor entertainers, and some panhandlers as well. For some reason, we walked by a woman who had seen better days. She had a cup and asking people for help. I did not have any loose change and was ready to walk by, because there were lots of homeless people in LA. The climate is good for them.
The thing that caught my attention to this woman was that she caught my son’s attention. My son is a good man, and has a heart as big as Montana. He sees a lot of beggars, so when one gets his attention I pay attention. He gave her a pocketful of his change, so I was intrigued. So I stood with this woman and asked her name. She told me her name was “CC”. I asked her how she got “here” and she told me her tale of woe. It was a good tale of woe, not selfish or whiney, but one of compassion and family lost. So I reached in my wallet and pulled out the smallest bill I had, which was a $100 bill. I folded it as small as I could and wished her all the best that life could give her, and put it in her cup. We left and could hear her cry when she realized that it wasn’t just a dollar. I just turned and smiled, and knew that the universe did that for me every day. My son looked at me and smiled, because he knew I am insane.
So we can either believe that money is real, or not. We can share it when we have it, or not. We can trust that God will give us what we need, or not. We will travel this planet however we will, with or without money. We are free, with or without money. Money is the great illusion, for our true wealth is our experiences. I am truly wealthy from having met CC. I hope she reads this. It would make me laugh out loud to find out that she has more money than me.