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See How the Other Half Lives

I was recently invited to a charity auction at my niece’s school. It was a nice event. There was a silent auction, a nice dinner, and a live auction featuring dinners at places I’ve never been. Oh yeah, and there was a open bar, supposedly to facilitate the aforementioned auctions. After being surrounded by so many wealthy people for an evening I joked to friends afterwards that I “got to see how the other half lives.”

But the truth is this: I am the other half.

No, I don’t have a million dollars. I drive a 14 year-old car with battle scars. I could go on and on about the things I don’t have. In fact, the list will grow much faster than I could actually type. That’s the kind of world we live in. But I do have a house, a job, three square meals, and two (count ‘em, two!) cars that get me where I want to go. Most important, I have a wife and two young kids who love me far more than I deserve.

There was a recent survey by Fidelity Investments, which found that 42 out of 1000 millionaires don’t feel wealthy. I shook my head when I read this statistic. How could they be so greedy?

But this editorial by Kevin Winge put me in my place. I am the greedy one. He tells the story of “the other half” with a narrative about a man named Bandile who lives in a suburb outside of Cape Town.

Bandile lives in a two-room house. The front room serves as a living room and kitchen and is constructed of concrete. The bedroom that was added on in the back is made of zinc and poorly constructed. Holes in the ceiling let in rain and holes in the walls let in the cold and the rodents. Bandile lives with two adult cousins. The two oldest men share the only bed in the house and the younger one sleeps on an old sofa in the bedroom. When you visit, the three roommates will all sleep in the bed so you can have the sofa.

As you may have gathered, Bandile’s place isn’t a B&B. You won’t have a bed to sleep in and there won’t be breakfast either. There was no food in Bandile’s house when I stayed with him. I mean no food. Not a slice of bread. The lack of food made me curious about what the rat found to eat in the house. There must have been something under the sofa I slept on because I heard it scratching and gnawing throughout the night.

Don’t worry, you don’t really see the rat. Bandile has only one lamp and that is in the other room. There is no light in the bedroom so it is very dark, which makes for good sleeping until rays of light begin to shine through all of the holes in the walls in the morning.

I know the statistics about how my wealth places me in the top 10% of the world population. (At least.) But when I read or see something like this, it hits a spot in my heart that no statistic can touch.

Count your blessings and extend someone a helping hand today.

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