Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Take It With You

Occasionally I still hear someone speak of a "depression mentality."  What they mean, of course, is a Great Depression mentality.    What passes for stingy behavior could well have its roots in surviving the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Certainly my parents, who were married in 1932, displayed a bit of this behavior.  My father would come unhinged if someone left a light burning in an empty room.  My mother, always giving and thoughtful, was fairly good at stretching a meal or making due with less.
     These days, even in tough economic times, people seem less inclined to hoard.  In my town, restaurants are usually full and even though prices have doubled and tripled on some things in the last 10 years or so, you wouldn't know we';re still in the throes of a deep malaise.  Younger folks seem to be willing to share, care, and otherwise help those less fortunate.  There is a coffee wagon in my town that has a chalkboard menu outside that overlooks the street.  If an item has a mark or two (I III IV) that means someone has paid for an extra and if you want/need a latte or cup of coffee it's already been paid for.  Pretty cool, no?  This allows those to help and be helped without it being a big deal.  There is a bakery where people pay what they can.  Sometimes, people of means will just lay $20. worth out there for the taking.


     I wonder, though, how those who are really well off relate to these ventures.  Certainly there are some inspirational wealthy folks who spread their wealth around.  Bill Gates has given many an underprivileged scholar a free ride to the college of their choice.  But he's outrageously wealthy.  What about others?  I recall people coming to garage sales in a Mercedes and quibbling about weather to pay 15 or 25 cents for some insignificant item.  The old adage that the reason they are well off is because they are miserly seems sufficiently proven on occasion.
     The only really wealthy person I know is quite elderly...how about 92...but suffers from a full blown Depression mentality.  This person is estimated to be worth upwards of 15 million.  A long professional career, good investments, weathering a few economic storms have led to this.  But one time, a few years ago, I was driving said person and a few friends to a dinner engagement.  On a busy freeway I noticed a car with personalized license plate.  It read: GIV BAC.  I remarked to my fellow passengers that I thought it was a most interesting plate.  The person was driving a very nice car, probably a Lexus, but felt the need to take a stand for all to see.  As my carload of fellow travelers noticed the license plate  they all nodded in recognition.  All except one.  You know who.  The multi-millionaire had no idea what the significance of that plate could be.

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