Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wealth is Relative

This week I attended the She's Connected Conference in Toronto. It was by invitation and I was grateful for the experience, not only because of the new and renewed friendships but because I was reminded that material wealth is relative. We were surrounded by brands, drove in a hands-free parking car, and received tons of swag. I was surrounded by smartly dressed women with a varying array of electronic devices.

I think it was the shoe party where the first stark contrast in economies hit hard: a friend stood at the back of a two storey shoe store where music blasted, price tags daunted and a roped red carpet let in only the invited. She was crying because of the helplessness of trying to give aid to a homeless women who not only refused the bag of food offered, she ensured she placed it in front of the shoe store for her donor to see.

Back at the hotel, as we stood outside, we were approached by a raving homeless man who stood two feet from our faces, wanting a cigarette. Normally I would have complied, but I didn't feel safe and told him to go away. With that, he snatched a lit cigarette from my friend's hand and walked away, daring us to call the police. I walked past the shiny new cars to tell hotel stuff what had happened.

While the two worlds of "have a lot" and "have nothing" were glaringly apparent, there was also the world of "woah is me." That world is occupied by those of us who look at what we do not have, instead of looking at what we have. We say we have "no money", but we have our electronic devices and our cars. We had enough to travel and stay in a hotel but not enough to buy the gorgeous shoes or purses.

When we compare our wealth to what we do not have, we are frustrated by our lot in life. We need to find ways to make more money. It is an endless, fruitless pursuit because we will never have it all.

If we compare our wealth to what others do not have, we can almost feel ashamed of the abundance in our lives.

I'm going to work on adjusting my thinking to realize all that I do have, instead of dwelling on what I do not have. It will be a monumental shift in thinking but one that will allow me to enjoy my reality instead of pining for future wealth. I'll bet just one year from now it won't matter that I didn't buy that fringed purse but it will matter that I spent more time with the people who are dear to me.


  1. Excellent post. We certainly do have a lot to be thankful for. Thank you for reminding us, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner - very timely

  2. Excellent post. Not only is it hard to balance our perceptions of what we have and don't have, we also all struggle with our perceptions of others' needs. That homeless woman didn't want to take food in front of the glamorous party she was watching. We don't know- perhaps she was imagining herself part of the party and the offer of the food dashed her dream. The aggressive homeles man was in his own world of fight of flight and he couldn't see your fear. I myself was approached by a man while walking home who asked for money for food. He said he'd asked someone else who'd spit on him for being hungry. He made sure I knew he wasn't homeless just had bare cupboards. I didn't ask questions, but let him maintain his pride and apologized for the other person's behavior. This concept of have/have not a d how it's tiedbin with self respect is so tricky. I love that you've opened the discussion.

  3. This is a great post. I didn't see any of that happen and I am often driven to hand outmoney to people who approach me. Last week a person actually knocked on my door on a Saturday morning to ask for $5. I live in a suburb in London, Ontario. My kid's always say mom let
    S give that person money. I love that it is their first inclination. But at the same time I want them to grow up to understand there is a balance and a need to have enough to cover our own bills. We are not rich - far from it. We are rich in many other ways though and I am starting to see somuch mote of this lately - people asking for money, people visibly homeless and in need in London, Ontario. It worries me a lot. I think we are seeing an increase in this and it should give us all pause to stop and think about what is the true underlying social problem here and how can we fix it.

    I am glad you opened conversation too.