Watching TV last night and there was a commercial for some sort of game show/reality show hybrid coming out. There is a briefcase of money you either keep it or give it to someone else. Full disclosure I have no idea what the rules or premise of the show are, it was just a quick commercial tease. After seeing it Brent looks at me and asks, "So do you give it away?" I didn't even hesitate, "Yes."
Then I stopped and thought about it. "I am assuming they would put someone against me who really needed the money. More money wouldn't really change anything in my life so yeah, I would give it away."
Then I thought about it some more. Would it change anything? Would I be able to see a briefcase full of money and hand it to someone else? Hmmm...
Yeah, I would.
I had breakfast with my friend Erin yesterday morning and we talked about poverty and getting ahead in the world and the blind spots people have regarding where they started versus where other people started and how that prevents them from having the necessary empathy to be a decent human being. Yeah, I know heavy breakfast conversation...we also told funny stories and had great laughs. I just have to say I love my friends.
You all know that I started behind. Where I am now was unimaginable to me when I was younger. Unless there was a lottery win involved somehow. We are comfortable. I don't work and we are comfortable. Far cry from where I was growing up when we all worked at least one job and we weren't comfortable. We were precarious. Far cry from our first few years of marriage with Brent in the Navy where he worked and studied and served his country (unleash the patriotic music) and I worked and worked and worked and sold the country clothes and fun electronics (cue the mall muzak). We worked full time plus and there was still month left at the end of our money. Even later, especially later, after we had C I can remember sitting at the desk trying to get our monthly bills to work out and realizing that we still weren't any farther ahead, we were making more, sure, but now there were three of us and we were trying to support a house and two cars and after-school activities for C and... there were tears.
Then even later working in advertising and watching my clients going on fabulous vacations, and eating at restaurants that I couldn't even bring myself to touch the menu, and wearing a shirt that cost as much as my entire wardrobe and...and it was all overwhelming. Money. There just wasn't enough.
Until one day there was.
We moved in to a smaller place when we came back to Portland. Brent raised the amount that was taken out of his check for savings each time he got a raise so we were building that without feeling the pinch. He worked like a dog and kept advancing at work. When I phased out of advertising we went down to one car. I worked three jobs for one memorable stretch at the end of that run and we used that money to pay off a couple of things. When C went to college Brent looked at his years of stock from Intel and figured out what to sell to pay off student loans.
And yesterday I bought a shirt without looking at the price tag first.
Now to be perfectly fair once I saw how much it was I panicked and it still might be going back, but the point is there was a time in my life not too many years ago where 1. Shopping in the middle of the day wouldn't have happened because I would have been at work and 2. I would NEVER EVER EVER have even tried on a shirt just because I liked it without first checking the price, any and all sales and any extra coupons I might possibly have. I mean seriously, people, this shirt was $50. For a shirt...
So anyway...all of that taken in to account (so to speak) I am back to the original question from Brent would I give the money away? Yes. I would. Especially to someone who was where we were. Money would make a difference for us, sure. If it were serious money. Like a million dollars would change anyone's life right? But only a little. Only by a small increment. Brent and I have what we need. We are happy. We have a content life. We are able to live within our means and have some extra frills as well. Sports tickets, musical tickets, extra shows that come around, restaurants without a drive through, shirts without sales. If C needed our help we could offer it as well. But I know what it's like to be in the kitchen when the repo man comes for your car. I know what it's like to cry over the check book because it just seems like there is no way out of the cycle. And for those people? In that situation? Money makes all the difference in the world.
Now we don't give briefcases full of money away right now but we give to different charities. We use Intel's matching program and the United Way's program so that they get even more than what we could give on our own. We donate to different people and different causes. The other day I bought someone breakfast because they were trying to figure out how to get the most out of their money and I realized how simple it was for me to turn their Or into an And. But to be perfectly fair, I don't loan money. I don't give more than we can afford. I don't jeopardize our fiscal health to lift others up. I give comfortably. Because there is still the part of me that isn't secure enough in the thought that we will always be okay. I want to make sure we are settled. That's the selfish part of me.
So I get that a lot of people would keep the money as a padding. As a just in case. As a more. We all need more. More. More.
But what would more really get you? Would you be happier with more? Would you be just as content with less? When we first went down to one car it was strictly a financial decision and I thought there was no way we could do it. But now I wouldn't want two cars. What a waste of resources. We keep looking at places to move and most of them are really big. It's a turn off for both of us. We don't want or need more. More is just more to take care of. More to heat and cool and clean. Why have more? Where does the need for more end?
For me I guess it ends with a game show and briefcase full of money. I wouldn't take it. How about you?