Posted by: eileenandrory | August 26, 2009

The Money Thing

Once upon a time when I was a little girl I used to think that having money meant being happy, and that to some extent it fixes problems.  Gradually, over time, I learnt that sometimes all money does is make matters worse, and it certainly doesn’t solve problems.  Money isn’t evil, its amoral, all it does is place a value on things, an economic value.  To truly solve the problem you need to look at all the reasons why the problem exists in the first place.

My biggest and most important lesson that money doesn’t solve things is offered up in the life of my brother.  He was failing at school and falling in with the wrong kids, even in the tender primary school years.  Even as young as I was I could see that my younger brother, whilst not stupid, was certainly not doing as well at school as I was.  For whatever reason it was he didn’t find it easy.  My parents spent a lot of money on remedial things for him – a lot of money.  They even decided to send him to an outrageously expensive boarding school.  I threw the biggest teenage tantrum you could think possible when I heard about it.  Why were they spending soooo much money on his education and not on mine?  Surely my education was a better investment?  Yes, that sounds impossibly harsh, and I cringe when I think of it now, but please forgive me, I was a pretty obnoxious and opinionated teenager 🙂

Well, 15 years on and I can see that all that money did for my brother was dig a much deeper hole.  He was away from home, away from people who cared for him, and perhaps that made matters worse.  I was at home, I had boundaries and tested them, but at least I had my parents right there when I needed them.  There were other problems with my brother, but maybe money wasn’t the answer here.  Without going into too much detail, my brother has continued to dig his hole and suffice to say that if it were not for blood I wouldn’t choose to associate with him – he and I are so very very different.  I am not being overly judgemental in this.  His lack of education and lack of motivation for getting himself out of his hole has made him very narrow minded and has meant he has ended up very sick.  He needs help, unfortunately it is the sort of help that family members just cannot offer at this point.

Anyway, I digress.  My point is that money does not solve problems.

I have a friend who has stated to me that she used to give money every week to the church for charity.  Now I am an atheist, but I have absolutely no problem with a lot of the charitable works that churches do.  My problem came when she said to me that because she has a young family she no longer has money to give to the church and will do so when she has more money and will teach her children to do so.  I wasn’t expecting her to sacrifice her family to give to charity.  That’s just ludicrous.  BUT, there are other ways to solve problems in society than tossing money at the problem.

On a related note I read a wee bit of Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad in which the reader is taught how the rich teach their children to be rich and how the poor teach their children to be poor.  One of the ways he suggests that we teach our kids about money is to have three savings jars.  One for spending, one for saving and one for charity.  I disagree.  How can a child learn the true meaning of charity, of help and compassion without  experiencing it for themselves??  If they are only taught to give money then are we not teaching kids to put a salve upon their conscience?

I plan on having two jars for my children.  One for spending and one for savings.  I also plan on having them involved with as many community activities and events as I can get them to be involved in.  When they are a little bit older I want to take them to a Xmas gift wrapping session at the Auckland City Mission.  I want to take them to the kiwi equivalent of a Soup Kitchen.  We already donate some toys to the Salvation Army shop every now and again, and my eldest is starting to ‘get’ it.  My next step is to take the toys to the Women’s Refuge and explain to him why it is good that he does things like this.  I want to show them how to spend their TIME more than how to spend their money.  I want to show them the people that they are helping and to let them experience these sorts of things.  Hopefully one day I will be able to look on with pride as I see my child arguing passionately for something.  I expect to be called to bail my kids out of jail, not because they have been criminal, but because they had the passion to chain themselves to a fence for a worthwhile cause.   Those are the sorts of kids I want to raise.

Going back to the friend who said she donated to the church.  She recently complained about all the rubbish on the street and the rubbish in the area.  She blamed it on the council.  Fifty years ago we wouldn’t have thought of blaming the council – or maybe we would have.  But we are so ready to blame someone or something else we fail to ACT because it’s always someone elses problem.  I paid my rates so I abdicate my responsibility for rubbish.  I turned it back on her.  Take some gloves, grab the kids and some rubbish bags and go for a walk, turn it into a teaching opportunity.  Show kids the meaning of community, show them how to care for where they live, the people and the environment.

I liken our giving to charity like the Middle Ages when people were ‘buying’ their way into heaven.  The more money you had the more able you were to salve your conscience and redeem yourself.  Look at all those wealthy people in the world who suddenly give up being the CEO and go to work on their ‘charities’ because suddenly they have the time and money to be so generous.  Why do we have have to wait?  Why did they wait till they had ‘enough’ money to do something??  Are they assuaging their guilt???  Why does Stephen Tindall do so much for charity, yet he turns a blind eye to some of the goods that the Warehouse stocks?  You can’t have it both ways.  Bill Gates, with his foundation.  Sure he spends BILLIONS on helping eradicate AIDs and malaria in third world countries.  How much more change could he effect by making Windows open source?  Now I am not a techy geek at all, but I would guess that that could possibly do so much more.

We need to change the mindsets of people.  I am heartily sick of people who have opinions and do nothing.  You may as well not have an opinion.  If you bother to think then act.  It doesn’t have to be something big, or monumental.  Start small.

I never used to be green.  Now I am getting it, now I am getting there.  Now I have a date on my rubbish bag to see how long it lasts before I have to use a new one.  I try and beat it each time and extend it by doing as much recycling as possible.  Now I have a garden, a small one as our land is the size of a postage stamp.  Now I think twice about buying grapes from California.  Now I volunteer and I stand up and I am not afraid to speak out.  Now I give my time, and that is more precious than any money I could spend.  Because I gain so much more from learning from the experience and the people I work with learn too.  Now I have more friends.  Now I have more of everything, and I am wealthy.

Stop sitting on your arse or just giving money.  Do something.



  1. Fab post!!

  2. Fantastic post E, so true

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