The other morning we received news that someone replaced someone else as the second wealthiest person on the planet. My first thought is to wonder who cares other than numbers one, two, and three. My life is neither enhanced nor improved by knowing who the richest people are. But I had subsequent thoughts.
It’s a certainty that I will never rank among these people. Too many of my years are in the past. No matter what I imagine, I can’t think of anything that I could possibly accomplish at this point to put me in the ranks of the wealthiest. But as I pondered this reality (not sadly), I also wonder if these top three people are happier than the rest of us.
Very few of the extremely affluent make news about their charitable acts. Bill and Melinda Gates are often recognized for their contributions and while I can’t name other gestures of generosity off the top of my head, I know that these two do a great deal for society. Whenever I imagine being in their income category, I am certain that I would dedicate a portion of my wealth to those less fortunate as I do now.
But are they happier, more well-adjusted, or “better people” because of their affluence? The possibilities of my asking Mr. Bezos, Mr. Gates, Mr. Zuckerberg, or Mr. Buffett about their happiness are extremely slim. Regardless, the reality is that money buys things but not happiness. And I can’t help but wonder if they are seeing the same news stories that I see – endless lines of people who are desperate for enough food to survive.
And so, I continue to believe that having millions or billions would not make me smile more or improve my state of being. I couldn’t ask for a better home life, children, and grandchildren. Money would make it possible for me to make my gifts to them more lavish but not necessarily more important. And it makes me happy to think that my gifts to those less fortunate reduces hunger in one or two or ten families.
If you are entertained, motivated, or anything else in learning about the richest people on earth, have at it. My fervent hope is that they are happy while rich and that they are industrious about sharing that happiness with those who need it most. Shalom.