Charity should begin at home, but should not stay there. ~ Philip Brooks
You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~ Anonymous
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. ~ William Makepeace Thackeray
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SO MUCH PRIVILEGE
I am always inspired by people who rise from nothing to achieve greatness. I’m reminded of a different time when a much younger version of myself had dreams and aspirations of grandeur.
Coming out of high school, we were what they called the ‘Yuppie Generation’. The first half of that decade was rough. 1983-84 saw mortgage rates as high as 21% and many of our parents lost homes, careers, and savings. My generation was convinced we were smarter than them.
As the economy began to boom in 1987, money came easy to us. The ‘88 Olympics helped further that boom. We had mobile phones (a much larger version than today’s cell phones), expensive cars, and name brand clothing. We had no fear of running out of money because there was always opportunity to make more.
In reflection, the late eighties and early nineties were probably one of the most selfish periods in our country. It was all about getting ahead, status symbols, and appearance. We wanted faster cars, bigger homes, and the newest toys. We were immune to the realization that not everyone was as fortunate as we were. Our view was, if we could succeed, why couldn’t they?
I remember my mother coming over for a visit once. I was 22 years old. Despite the fact I had a great paying job and my own home, mom still worried about my future. She had seen hard times most of her life, so she subscribed to saving and preparing for the future. Her generation believed in avoiding credit cards and only buying what was needed.
I was proud of myself. I had two cars, of which one was a Trans Am that I had just purchased a week before. I wanted to show it off. “See mom? It’s got a T-roof, a stereo you can hear from three blocks away, and look between the seats… See that? That’s an actual phone… can you believe it?!” My mom looked it over and asked, “How can you possibly afford this?” I smiled as I told her about how I had financed it. “Is your house paid off?” she asked. I shook my head no. “With interest rates so high, don’t you think those car payments might be better spent on lowering your mortgage?” I pretended I didn’t hear and changed the topic.
A couple years later, I ran into a little financial trouble. I won’t go into details as to how, but let’s just say, when it comes to investing money, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The eighties and nineties were full of Ponzi schemes and fast talkers that preyed on naïve young people. As I picked up a second, and eventually, even a third job to dig myself out of debt, I recall my mother asking what I owed and to whom. As I opened up, she quickly came to the realization that there was very little I owned outright. Between mortgage, car loans, an equity loan, and credit cards, I had managed to rack up more debt than what I could sell everything for. She scolded me. Not just for being naïve, but for being irresponsible. I defended myself by blurting out, “Mom… this is how things are done now. Everyone has debt.” She shook her head and said, “Your entire generation… so much privilege and nothing to show for it.” It took a few years for me to figure out what that meant.
It was hard work, but I dug myself out over a couple years. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I changed my mindset, my lifestyle, and my outlook on life as a whole. It’s funny, but when you no longer look to impress and concentrate on stability, you begin to understand and sympathize with others experiencing hardship. You become less selfish. You try to help others less fortunate instead of ridiculing them. You mature more as a person, not just in age, but in personality and mind.
I may no longer impress others with fancy toys but, as I reflect, I never really knew who I was trying to impress back then anyways. However, I do, indeed, continue to enjoy privilege. Privileges I never used to recognize. And with a loving family, a secure future, and many friends who are friends because of who I am, not what I own… I think I have a lot to show for it.