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Sharing the wealth

Confessions of a realistic pollyanna

When we are children, we are taught that it is a good thing to share. If we have a candy bar, we might be asked to share it with a sibling. We might do so, but we become quite concerned that both halves are of equal size. We are taught to share, taught to over monopolise the television remote or computer time. Sharing is away that we can all get along.

Unfortunately the concept of sharing does not always carry through to adulthood. In western cultures, people have become aware of the 1% who own 20% of the wealth in the country. CEO's of banks and industries get paid many times more than the people who work for them. News reports say that the 30 richest people in the world own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion. We want to hear about life styles of the rich and famous. We don't want to hear about the struggles of the poor. Consumerism means we are more concerned about keeping up with the Joneses rather than the plight of our neighbours.

However some people do share the wealth. In the bible we hear of the widow who put everything she has to go into the offering plate. We probably know people who have given so much to others, that they are poor themselves. The author JK Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, has given so much of her wealth to charity, that she is no longer a billionaire. And then there is the story of Robert Smith.

Robert Smith is one of the one percent. He went to university and worked very hard. He worked for Kraft foods and Goldman Sachs, before starting his own private investment company. Because of his shrewd investments and business savvy, Mr. Smith has amassed a fortune of $5 billion dollars. He has been generous for his charitable gifts in the past. Because of his philanthropy and his business success, Mr. Smith was asked to be the speaker at the graduation ceremony of Morehouse College, an all male black college in Atlanta.

It was here, where Mr. Smith's generous nature shone. During his address to the students, Mr. Smith talked of his own early struggles to make ends meet. He recognised that many of the students graduating from Morehouse would also be struggling even after graduation. Despite the fact that their university degrees would help them get better jobs, the student loans that they had incurred meant that they would be in debt for many years. In fact some of the graduates would never get out of debt. Crippling interest charges that are put on student loans meant that for some students, the capital amount they owned on the loan would actually increase over the years and since they cannot escape the loans through bankruptcy, they would be in debt for the rest of their lives.

That is when Mr. Smith decided to be generous. He told the 400 graduating students that he would pay off their loans. They would not have to worry about capital and interest. Instead they could just get on with their lives and their careers without the worry of the anvil of debt around their neck. All he asked is that they pay this kindness forward. They were asked to help other women and men throughout their lives. Since the graduates had been helped, Mr. Smith simply asked them to help others.

It was indeed a generous act. Mr. Smith helped 400 graduates. These graduates had $40,000,000 worth of student loans. It is a sizeable sum. Oh maybe not that big in terms of a $5 billion portfolio. I mean it is just 0.8% of Mr. Smith's total wealth. However, four hundred families will have better lives thanks to this generous gift. Without the fear of crippling debt, these four hundred people will be able to contribute more fully to the economy which will mean other people will have jobs. If each of these 400 recipients of Mr. Smith's generosity help 5 other people, then 2000 families will be touched. If each of these families pay it forward, thousands more would benefit. All because of one man's gift.

Now I am certain that I will never see $40,000,000 in my lifetime, let alone $5,000,000,000. I had problems paying off my own student debt let alone the debt of 400 students. My gifts of generosity won't be reported around the world for others to read. However, I know that I could easily give up 0.8% of my income to help others. If I can give up 0.8% for charity then maybe others can as well. In Australia statistics show us that there are over 8,000,000 households. The average household earns 84,000 dollars a year. If all of us gave 0.8% of our wealth to those in need, nearly 5.4 billion dollars would be going to help others. Think of the many lives we could change if we could work together. A small amount from everyone makes a vast difference for everyone. Blessings

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