On Poverty, Wealth, and Giving

Charity Is in Your HandsCharity begins at home.  The first step in fighting poverty is to refuse to be a part of it.  The dictionary says poverty is a lack of resources.  But a “lack of resources” is relative; thanks to technology almost everyone in our country lives better, and richer than 95% of the rest of the world.  We only consider ourselves poor when we don’t have what we see on TV, where the living room of Joe Everyman is the size of half a football field.

The homes of the so-called Robber Barons of the 19th century are mostly museums now, and there are few even among the poorest today who would wish to regress to that primitive standard of living:  no running water, no flush toilets, no refrigerator, no electric stoves, no microwave ovens, no central heat or air, no phones, no radio, no television, no stereo, no computers, no Internet; not to mention no surround sound, no fast affordable cars, no air travel, no ipods, no cell phones, no digital cameras, gasp, no Facebook!  And yet those people were considered wealthy in their time.  Poverty is a moving target.

Wealth is the abundance, not of toys, but of income-producing resources that are employed in production, creating yet more wealth.  I work in network marketing, and my valuable resources are all of the human kind:  the hard working and ambitious people who collaborate on our team to move products rapidly to market.  We are team builders, and all of us, and the team we are a part of, are the product.  Together we form one of the most powerful delivery systems ever created.  Some part of our system is always working while the rest of us are sleeping.

The way I see it, there are only three ways to acquire wealth:  inherit it; take it from others by force; or earn it in fair trade with others.  We trade a value we produce for a value they produce, and the means of exchange is money.  The preferred resource of those who seize the wealth of others is the gun, most often wielded behind the shield of government.  The preferred resource of those who earn their wealth by trade with others is their mind, which they use to create better and better value. 

What about wealth by other means?  Those who inherit wealth often do not understand or adopt the values that created it. Unless they are protected from themselves by legal barriers set in place by their wiser forebears, their wealth could be quickly squandered.  Their wealth is theirs to use or lose.  As philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand commented once, ‘If a man’s money is greater than he is, he will lose it.’

Those who seize the wealth of others by force are a bigger problem.  Almost 40% of our American society are sustained financially by the transfer of wealth from those who created it, to those who demand it.  The transfer is accomplished by the implied threat of coercion applied by government, and the preferred twin tools used are taxation and inflation. The target is always the achievers.

Wealth is an attribute of those committed to the use of their mind.  Wealth is a corollary of free minds.  Left to themselves, people who value their own mind as their greatest resource will use it to better themselves, to create wealth.  This is why the freest countries in the world are always the richest.  My father was a first-generation immigrant, and thanks to his example of industry and thrift, I was able to rise from modest beginnings to the standard of living that my husband, Jim, and I enjoy today. I love my life in network marketing, not only because I can succeed commensurate with my effort and ability, but also because I can open doors of opportunity to others with the same values. 

We do not all succeed to the same level.  No matter how well we do, we will find those who have done better.  We can go green with envy, or we can learn from successful people who are often very generous sharing their time and knowledge with others.

Action is vital.  Lying in bed thinking grand thoughts will not create wealth.  A wheel lying over on its side won’t get you to where you want to go, and the bulb in your mind won’t light up your world if the switch is off.  Just as the Bible says the race doesn’t belong to the swift, nor the battle to the mighty, you don’t have to be a college graduate or a genius to become wealthy.  You have to have enough humility to be teachable, and you need some kind of balance between desire, street smarts, self-discipline, and good habits.

I would make a case that both  wealth and enduring poverty are states of mind, and both are self-perpetuating.  We  are equal in the sense that we all have a mind capable of producing values that can be traded with others.  We all choose what we do with our mind.  We can suffocate it, poison it, or we can feed it.  If someone lives where opportunities are few and far between, or their government gets in the way, they migrate to where greater freedom exists.  All great migrations in history have been either flight from oppression or a search for freedom to think, to worship, to earn, and to avoid confiscation of what is earned.  Oppressive regimes frequently find themselves the unintended victims of brain drain.  Anyone with get-up-and-go gets up and goes, often at the risk of their lives.  These are the poor that are worthy of charity, of a helping hand, because their first and highest priority is to regain their financial freedom.  These people frequently tend to quickly rise to the top of their chosen professions.  Network marketing is looking for such people world wide.  Network marketing has what they need; opportunity, not charity.

For others, giving creates a dependency in the recipient with expectations of more giving.  Charity has then ceased to be charity, but has become an entitlement, and we may have unintentionally become enablers of behavior we do not condone.  To put charity first in such circumstances is to glorify need over achievement. 

I hear on the news all the time about unemployment, and then the awful numbers of those who have given up looking for work.  Then I think, if all each of us is doing is working to create something of value to trade with others, how can anyone with a mind become permanently unemployed?  Are we to really believe that their magnificent mind is capable of producing nothing at all that is tradable with others?

I think what is much more likely is that these folks are capable of doing plenty, but they have set artificial limits (or the government has done this for them) on what they are willing (or permitted) to do, and at what price.  These are not the people who do well in network marketing.  The first and hardest thing everyone in network marketing has to learn is how to be employers of themselves.  There is no safety net, no one is coming to do it for you, and the starting pay stinks.  Everyone starts at zero.

What kind of people are attracted to this lifestyle?  Folks whose only brush with poverty was in their wallet, but never in their minds or spirit.   They still dare to dream; they ask for no favors except to be taught.  They want opportunity, and they want to live free.

Understanding the nature of both wealth and poverty helps us to realize that  when it comes to giving, having heart does not require you to abdicate your mind.  Help yourself first.  Anyone who has ever listened to a flight attendant knows that in an emergency, you secure your own flow of oxygen first, and then you help those nearest you. 

Once you have acquired the means to give, exercise the same due diligence and good judgment that got you there in the first place.  Give in a way that rewards values you believe in, not laziness. 

We all know life is unfair and many times people are victims of tragedy through no fault of their own.  This is especially true of children.  (This is why Operation Smile is near and dear to my own heart; see for yourself on the Give page of this website.)  Have you ever had your heart go out to such people, only to wish you had greater means to help?  Then acquire the means.

Does this mean you should wait until you are rich before you give to others?  Absolutely not!  In fact I would have to say the fastest way I know of to grow wealthy is to edify, promote, and encourage others.  Those with a mindset of abundance will always have the habit of giving—sensibly and within their means.  And then, as Robert Kiyosaki is fond of saying, seek to increase your means!  

Yes, charity begins at home.  But I would go one step further.  Poverty and wealth ultimately begin in our mind, because how we think influences all our choices. 

I wish you Godspeed on your journey!


One comment

  1. Gail says:

    Great thoughts! I noted especially the comment that “Poverty is a moving target”. Through your positive mindset and industriousness, you have shown that even though WEALTH is also a moving target, it CAN be achieved.
    Well done! Your Sept. blog is encouraging!

Comments are closed.

priscilla harrison "I have always had a mindset that made a difference. I never waited for success to come to me. I always believed it was my responsibility to make it happen".

Priscilla Harrison

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December 2022