It is amazing how people put so much emphasis on their monetary material wealth to amplify their importance, as if it meant something. In the scheme of life does it really matter how much you have?
It appears in today’s world that is all that matters. Whether one works hard, studies hard and is diligent in living, it doesn’t ensure that you will have a large net financial worth. Some of the hardest-working and most frugal people in the world live in poverty or on its borders. A pious soul is not a guarantee of fiscal worth either.
But, this essay is intended to question the focus on fiscal wealth to begin with and to suggest that a more balanced view of “real human value” might improve life for everyone.
In my own years of work and through my own struggles in life there have been mistakes, but there have been lessons and rewards, some of which were monetary; most have been precious beyond fiscal value. Even my writing skills, which allow me to share my thoughts and feelings evolved from the gifts of others who shared their knowledge freely with me by editing, critiquing and challenging.
My work with people over the years has brought me into contact with many people who eagerly shared their knowledge and wisdom. Many were highly educated academics and teachers, successful business owners and those engaged in community and social activities. Most were common ordinary people, often poor or with little monetary means. Some were older, my own age or were more youthful. My best teachers have been children, value for them shaped by nothing other than their ability to love unconditionally. Children are not concerned with your age, colour, ethnicity, language or your status in the world.
True wealth for me is reflected in my memories, stories, gifts and mementoes, each one a priceless present from someone who cared. My net worth can be measured by my caring family (both maternal and extended), my friends and acquaintances and all those that were my pleasure to encounter along the way.
As significant are the words of kindness expressed by those fellow voyagers who have shared a part in my life’s journey.
A dear friend once told me “you are the richest person I know – you have so many friends”. A special Canadian Senator would always remark to me, when I called to say hello from some place or other in the world, “you have just made my day”.
An elder Scottish man, one of many people who shared my journey during my time there, upon my imminent departure, said with tears in his eyes in his Northeast Scottish Brogue; “ye’ll nae forget us”. How could I ever forget them, when they taught me so much about real community and life’s web?
An old Gambian man, since deceased, sat by my house for several hours, waiting my return from work to say “thank you” for a kindness shared. The young Gambian child of three, in my care since she was a baby, who will say to me in English (not her language) “I love you”. What price could anyone put on such sentiments and the many written and verbal expressions of appreciation over the years?
We live in a society where the desire for fiscal wealth outstrips the willingness to preserve the health and well-being of people and the future of the natural world. Economies are designed to siphon money to the few, while depriving those most poor of necessary social support including their children’s nourishment and education.
It is not those with the greatest fiscal wealth that are most important, in fact the opposite is true. Those with the most value are the ones with the least, who survive on little or nothing, but know how genuinely valuable life itself is.
There is much talk, especially in development circles, about the need for empowerment, resilience, innovation and entrepreneurship. Spend time in the poorest communities in the world and you will see all of this alive and well; these are the human tools they need just to survive.
If only we could get past our arrogance of self and ego and step into the real world of the many, we would genuinely find the real educators on life.
Sadly, we are dominated by huge institutions, mostly controlled by people of wealth and power who fear any shift that will diminish their control. At the same time, more people are becoming marginalized and impoverished, even in the developed world. The state of the world forgotten as extremist polarities clash and collide for power, diminishing life for everyone and further destroying the natural world.
There is a global movement evolving comprised of those who have different values, who care about others and the state of the natural and living environment that is slowly gaining traction. Those involved struggle everyday to make progress in a fragmented world driven by extremes.