I have in the past blogged about our attitude towards the poor. This post is about our attitude towards the rich.
Several months ago I met a couple for the first time. Their son had asked my daughter to the prom and I immediately checked out their family through mutual friends. The entire family got rave reviews. When I met the parents I was not disappointed. This was a funny, educated, and socially active couple who volunteered extensively in the community. Exactly the type whose son you might reluctantly agree wouldn’t necessary be a bad person for your daughter to know (still getting used to the whole dating thing here).
The couple asked us over to their house to see the prom “afterparty” setup. At a joint driveway I was confused as to which house had which number. To the right was a small log cabin, in front of me was what we call in our area a “McMansion.” I began walking toward the McMansion when the couple called to me from the back door of the log cabin.
It was about twenty minutes later, as we were in the house talking, that I realized I was disappointed with their house. As soon as I was aware of this feeling I was mortified by my unreasonable reaction. These were two people who had given more back to the community than my husband or I could ever hope to. I won’t even get into the list of their son’s accomplishments. Yet somewhere in the back of my head parasitical thoughts were judging this excellent family based on the size of their home.
Meeting this family made me face my unhealthy attitude towards the rich. Somewhere along the line I have begun to equate wealth with accomplishment and character.
A certain narrow type of accomplishment does create wealth. Most great accomplishments have nothing to do with money. I’m thinking of pastors and teachers here, and also volunteer coaches and food bank workers.
What’s more, character and wealth have no direct causal relationship. There is plenty of historical proof and religious cautions that the opposite may be true.
I was shocked that I had to remind myself of this basic fact of life: your value as a person is determined by how many people you help and influence in a positive way. Period.
Where was I getting this insane idea that I could equate someone’s character to the size of their house?
Societies, just like books, have themes. If you look at almost any TV show or listen to the radio you see an orchestrated worship of wealth and the rich in this country. I thought I had avoided it, but we humans are pack animals. We pay attention to the attitudes and actions of others and then, even subconsciously, try to fit in.
I am very nervous about discussing this ugly pro-wealth bias that has nested in my head. It is embarrassing and reveals a shallowness that I’d rather not publically disclose.
But I have to discuss this because, unfortunately, I’m not alone.
Our failure to feed children in this country is intrinsically linked to our acceptance of the growing gap between rich and poor.
We are confusing what really matters — character and accomplishment — with wealth. This has allowed unscrupulous individuals to hijack our country. They siphon money from schools, eliminate living-wage jobs, and bankrupt social programs, all to feed the insatiable appetite of the rich.
Twice in the past two years we have cut food stamps, a lifeline not only for children but also for the elderly.
How could we be so stupid?
I can only hope that my daughter’s prom date and his family don’t think less of my daughter because her mother is a ditz.