When I look at changes I’d like to make in my life, and goals and dreams I hope to realize, I sometimes get discouraged. I find myself thinking of all the people who have so much less than I and how grateful they would be for a measure of my health. I think of working conditions during the industrial revolution, or the complexities of nutrition in the African desert, or medical lack in refugee camps around the globe. I think of those brothers and sisters for whom dire need is a part of the everyday landscape and I start to wonder, “How dare I? What business do I have seeking to better my circumstance when I am already so much better off than the majority of my species?”
We can be made to feel guilty in our success, but truly, having much is a blessing – it is in the hoarding of resources that our gifts become depraved. Now, while I’m not really referring to the financial wealth and inequality about which we’ve been hearing so much in the past months, (I am talking about the pursuit of personal improvement: satisfying relationships, stronger integrity, physical health, mental and emotional stability; things in which my lack does not lessen others’ burdens, and my increase does not jeopardize their lifestyles, where it is not a case of “rival consumption,”) principles of philanthropy of wealth can easily be adapted and applied to our time, skills and other resources.
“This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of Wealth: First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community.”
Wealth, by Andrew Carnegie, as published in The North American Review Volume 0148, Issue 391 (June 1889) p. 661-662
I’ve learned that I cannot feel guilty for seeking healthy relationships just because there are so many others enduring miserable careers, toxic families or damaging intimacies. I cannot mitigate the pain of others by enduring similar abuse. The only way I can help those who are weak or suffering is to cultivate my own strength to share with them, as man of Wealth can only contribute his finances to the community after he has reasonably provided for himself and his dependents.
For this reason, it is crucial to continue bettering ourselves, not ostentatiously or for the sake of accumulating accolades, but to better equip ourselves with the tools to rise the tide and lift all the boats. We are each responsible for our successes and failures, and as our successes increase, so does our duty to assist others in achieving the same. Remember we were all born as useless, consuming infants, and only through the input of other people’s resources did we grow to be contributing members of society.
“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut