A Person’s Worth Cannot Be Measured by Wealth

Jesus lived in poverty. Yet, his name has outlived the names of millions of wealthy people who were buried long ago and forgotten. The Buddha left his mansion and his kingdom to live in poverty, because he needed the answer as to why suffering exists.

by Jack Bragen

I’ve spent time among people across a significant span of the socioeconomic spectrum. I’ve spent some time among wealthy, well-educated people, and time among those with various disabilities that have led to living in poverty. I’ve been among the down and out myself.

I have also interacted (and not in a good way) with people deemed “criminals” and I’ve been among people addicted to substances. Those with so-called “criminal backgrounds” are not always bad people. Some are bad, and they will harm people when they believe they can get away with it. Others are decent people, who, in their past, made some mistakes or bad decisions.

While “criminals” might pose physical danger, those with wealth are able to cause many other kinds of hardships. It seems that whatever category people are in, and there are many, there is resentment toward those of other categories. Yet people are people, and human nature seems much the same across all perceived divisions.

People with wealth are not immune to breaking laws. Yet, they will invariably have a good enough attorney, such that the consequences will usually be minimal.

In some instances, it takes less work (depending on how you define “work”) to function as someone on the bottom of the heap, compared to someone on the top of the heap. Some people are poor in part because they lack skills. This isn’t necessarily their fault. Some may not have a high I.Q., while others have a perfectly good, or even above-average, mind, but may lack the knowledge, education, and background needed to become upwardly mobile.

Some individuals may be brilliant, and yet this brilliance sometimes may work against them, since they may not fit into a category that most people can understand. Still others might be blacklisted because of offending someone in a position of power, and as a result, are excluded from working or being successful in their profession. We cannot accurately assume that all homeless people have ended up homeless because of drug addiction, or because of criminality, or some other form of turpitude.

While being poor may seem to entail less work, it is not a better situation, not by a long shot. The suffering that comes with poverty is genuine. A number of poor people do not have access to the basics, much less a nice house, a nice car, enough to eat, and the respect of society.

Disabled poor people are sometimes tightly knit, and will help each other when there is a need. They are often good people who are living in bad situations. Having a disability that prevents substantial, gainful work is a difficult and often injurious thing. We could live under much better conditions if we were able to maintain professional employment.

People are not always able to lift themselves by their bootstraps; that is a myth promoted by the wealthy. People with money often assume that those less fortunate are to blame for their own predicament. This is not always so.

Some wealthy people believe homelessness is a choice, and people choose that as a lifestyle because that is what they’d rather do. This is yet another myth. It is not plausible that a person would willingly live on a park bench or in a cardboard box.

One of the worst sides of human nature is when people try to exclude other people from existing. The Jewish people have faced this more than once, and in many eras and many nations. African-American people were mostly brought to the United States as slaves, were treated horribly, and sometimes put to death. African American people continue to be oppressed today in a number of situations, such as police profiling, job discrimination, jail sentencing and in the assumptions of white people.

At present, in America, many wealthy people living in affluent neighborhoods, many business owners, and many powerful politicians want to exclude homeless people from existing. They attempt to use the power of the law and their political authority to banish people simply based on poverty and disability.

At times, as a disabled person, I have internally suffered from the thought that people would rather that I disappear. The circumstances of my development and continued life might be considered unworkable by some. However, I haven’t given up. I am organized, and I am making a difficult situation work.

At all points across the socioeconomic spectrum there are cruel people, nice people, honest people and liars. The amount of material success someone has is not linked to virtue or a lack of it.

However, I object to those who hoard wealth. There are too many people who are just barely getting by or who aren’t getting by. It is unfair that some live in a twenty-room house on ten acres of land, while others do not even have a place to call home.

I am not a rich man, but there are certain things that I do well. I am good at telling the truth. I am usually a nice man, and almost always kind. When I make a mistake, I try not to repeat it. My sister said that I am a good person to have around if you are in a dark alley at night. My sister admires bravery.

Countless homeless veterans became disabled while in the military. Robert L. Terrell photo

 

Monetary success has not been my forte. Yet I am able to be a very effective individual in the absence of that. To me, money represents convenience, more choices, and better living conditions. I would like to have a lot of money, but I don’t. Wealth doesn’t bring happiness, but it could bring comfort.

Millions of people live under far worse conditions than I do on my Social Security benefits. Although Congress and the President would rather I live on a hilltop and scratch the boils on my feet with a stick, while asking God, “Why me?” I still think it is a good thing that the government provides for disabled people and seniors.

I like myself just fine, whether or not I own a lot of money. My success in life doesn’t have to be measured in terms of how much money I have. What about the idea of being a good person?

Jesus lived in poverty. Yet, his name has outlived the names of millions of wealthy people who were buried long ago and forgotten. The Buddha left his mansion and his kingdom to live in poverty, because he needed the answer to why suffering exists.

A person’s worth cannot be measured by his or her bank balance. A person will value himself or herself, or not. She or he can hoard any amount of wealth, yet no matter how much a person is able to obtain, it will not grant self-acceptance.

President Trump, one of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals on our planet, is an unhappy man. He suffers from some type of neurosis, because no matter how much wealth and power he is able to obtain, his innards still hurt.

This is apparent in how he behaves. Rather than doing his job as president, he is up at 3:00 in the morning tweeting insults to people. Unfortunately, the American people, and people in the rest of the world, are paying the price.

Cognitive techniques, and not currency, can teach an individual to appreciate himself or herself. Self-respect comes from having a clean conscience, from knowing that, whenever you can, you are doing the right thing, and from demonstrating (to yourself) that you have the ability to withstand life’s difficulties.

Self-respect doesn’t come from putting down others. When people bully others, it seems to give them a brief bit of satisfaction by furnishing the erroneous belief that they have bested someone. When I went to Concord High School, there were a lot of bullying kids there. I have no respect for people who need to put down someone else in order to raise themselves.

Yet, many people with wealth use it as a power trip. Using wealth to gain an advantage is the norm. It is expected that people with wealth will use their money as a means of dominating others.

What does that get them? It might give them a temporary high. Yet, not being able to accept oneself continues, and all bullies are forever tortured by that.

A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.