….aren’t things at all.
I was a newly minted Deputy Director responsible for enforcement on behalf of the Missouri Gaming Commission, attending my first Commission meeting when I met a man named Bill Grace. Mr. Grace was a crusty, self made gentleman who had parlayed his fortune into the ownership of a casino in St. Joseph, Missouri where he was known to be colorful, blunt and vexing. I had been briefed on Mr. Grace’s attributes and walked over to his seat in the audience to introduce myself and offer my hand. Mr. Grace gruffly told me that he knew who I was before I sauntered over. I was also aware that Mr. Grace was experiencing personal health problems and asked how he was getting along. He told me he was fine and dismissed me with a wave of his hand. As I walked away, Mr. Grace called me back and told me that a lie was no way to begin a relationship, and that in fact he was dying of cancer. Mr. Grace then offered a bit of unsolicited wisdom by flatly stating that he had all the money he needed, which really didn’t matter when you are dying, suggesting that your health “trumps all things”. Mr. Grace and I, predictably, crossed swords a few times before he died, not long after this meeting. According to a slew of polls conducted by a mob of folks who have an interest in such things, Mr. Grace was absolutely correct in his assessment.
I recently read a media account that suggested the three richest people in the world are Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and a relative newcomer to the ranks of folks who weigh their money rather than count it, Jeff Bezos, the genius behind Amazon. I suspect that most of us cannot grasp the magnitude of these folks’ wealth. A better question is what, exactly, are they going to do with all of this money, and to Mr. Grace’s point, does it matter, if they are afflicted with a serious health concern? Unless providence smiles broadly at me and grants me a powerball win, I’ll never know and that is just fine with me.
My research indicates that most people view money as the 5th most important consideration of the top nine most important aspects of life, with the top four considerations being family, health, work and friends. Money was deemed to be more important than religion, leisure time, hobbies and community activities. To keep us from wandering all over the map, the pollsters generally provide a listing of considerations for the respondents to rely upon in making these broad determinations. When folks are queried as to what is important that cannot be bought, such things as talent, respect, wisdom, and an open mind come to the surface. As my readers can see, arriving at a personal listing of important things can be complicated, but is worth a few minutes of your time when sitting quietly with a cup of good coffee. I have a very good friend, a Mennonite, who likely would really upset the order of the considerations listed above, and, for the record, is one of the most contented folks that I have ever known.
Folks like Gates, Buffett and Bezos are content with amassing vast fortunes, and I respectfully suggest that life for them is centered, if not consumed, with increasing these fortunes exponentially. I know they contribute to various charitable causes and I certainly applaud these magnamous efforts, but is this gesture a good business practice or does it come from the heart? Does the motivation really matter? Why would I be concerned….the fact is, I am not.
I doubt that Gates, Buffett or Bezos has the time or inclination to push off a gravel bar on the Big Piney in anticipation of a lazy float in pursuit of a basket of goggle eye and small mouth bass. I suspect the differences in the smell of freshly mowed alfalfa, orchard grass or a freshly cut lawn is lost on them as they are driven in their limos up the winding drive to their estates. There is likely no way they have enjoyed the practiced skill your fishing partner exhibits as he or she carefully works a slab crappie through the tangle of a cedar tree on Truman Lake’s Hogles Creek. All the money in the world cannot buy the warmth that one feels when an old dog lays his head in your lap with a trust that is endless. I will never forget the conversations with friends who are faced with a life ending medical issue, and seeing life through their eyes. As many of us know, they do understand the importance of health, and would trade every material possession they have for a second chance at life, disease free.
As a final thought, it is disheartening to see religion slip down the listing of important aspects of life. I suspect that technology and the pursuit of mathematical certainty in today’s world has contributed to this diminished aspect of life, which is based on the concept of faith, not easily reconciled with technical precision. Interestingly, those same friends that I have watched as they faced the end of life, all seem to move the spiritual aspect of living up the scale, some considerably. Given the uncertainty of life today, it is probably a good idea to work this concept into your meditation. We are the most prosperous folks on the face of the earth. It would be a shame if we substitute this prosperity for the stuff that really matters, like family, health, friends and the understanding of why we are here in the first place. Food for thought, don’t you think?