New Year 2013
Three things have been rattling around in my head this week…
Lately, I’ve been fretting a little bit about money, which is kind of new for me. I like the things you can do with money, but there are lots of things I won’t do for money. As a result, I’ve spent most of my life with enough money, but not much more, and I’m okay with that.
Recently, one of our daughters and her family moved back to the area. It’s great - she and her husband both have good jobs, all our grandchildren now live within an hour’s drive - all sorts of positives.
On the other hand, it’s a lot of bother for them. They’re house hunting, but have yet to sell their other house, they’re tied to the expenses of paying a mortgage on a house they’re not living in…you can picture the scenario. Nothing catastrophic or insolvable, but it made me think about how swell it would be if I could afford to just write out a check and fix things.
I was in the middle of that train of thought when I opened a letter from a charitable organization we support. It’s one of those where they send you a picture of a child who lives in a bad place in a poor country and you get a letter every now and then that describes how the child is progressing. We’ve been doing it a really long time - I think this is our third child. This particular letter was about what the girl did with the $25.00 we sent for her birthday. She bought rice, cooking oil, two pairs of plastic sandals, and some cloth for sewing clothes. Not only no Xbox, not even a piece of candy.
It made me feel pretty bad. A little kid should get a piece of candy on their birthday, but apparently not if it means the family is going to go without rice.
A half-hour after that train of thought, I opened a web page on my computer that features a random “This Day in History” segment, and the article of the day was about J. Paul Getty III.
J. Paul Getty III was about my age. He was the grandson of the billionaire J. Paul Getty. Around the time I was getting married, he was getting expelled from a private school. A couple years later, he was kidnapped and the kidnappers asked for $17 million. His grandfather would only pay $2.2 million, because that was the amount of ransom that would be tax deductible.
I guess there’s a reason some people get rich.
Anyway, to prove they were serious, the kidnappers cut off the young man’s ear and mailed it to the family. Some time after that, a ransom was paid and he was released, but things didn’t get any better for him. A few years later he overdosed on valium, methadone and alcohol and spent thirty years as a nearly blind quadriplegic before he died in 2011.
So, even though we were about the same age, I’d have to say we led dramatically different lives.
Having those three stories in my head simultaneously has been making me just a little bit crazy. A family with plenty of money, but nothing that matters, a little girl with plenty of nothing and another family with good educations, good jobs, family support, but still with plenty of challenges. I’m thinking about a little girl whose birthday money is needed to buy food for her family, a young man living a pointless, drug-addled life, at least in part because of the undeniable knowledge that his worth to his grandfather was tied to his value as a tax deduction, and I’m also thinking about how good health, good jobs and a good family still leaves room for all sorts of problems.