A few weeks ago I quoted Marlene Dietrich a saying: “There is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich.” Dietrich amassed an estate of considerable value in her lifetime, but something about that pile of money and possessions evoked in her a deeper sense of what true treasure is.
A first century rabbi said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The implication is that if accumulation of wealth is what one treasures the most, the heart will all too often be consumed by greed instead of compassion and love for others . . . which, by the way, was the whole focus of that rabbi’s whole life.
Recently I made the acquaintance of a Ukrainian who immigrated to the U.S. a few years ago. When he shared that his occupation was that of a long-haul truck driver, I mentioned that I heard it was a job that was well-compensated. His response was something like this: “Who needs a lot of money? If I can pay the bills, care for my family, and take a little vacation now and then, what more do I need?”
You’ve likely heard it before . . . there are two ways to have enough: to get more or to want less. A damnable problem that curses any society is the desire of a privileged minority for more and more and more and more. The word for it is greed, and it is one of the most destructive motivators of human behavior. The opposite are things like openheartedness, generosity, unselfishness, contentment, altruism, benevolence, charity, compassion, beneficence, munificence, and the like.
This past December I took one of my grandsons to see The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The grinch began as a miserly and miserable wretch who cared for no one but himself. At the end of the movie he had been transformed by a sense of community and caring for others that brought him a peace and joy he had never experienced.
Would that all of us strive to be like the grinch at the end of the movie.