A Christmas conundrum …
Billionaire Warren Buffet, has, we’re told in an e-mail bouncing around the net, donated $31 billion to charity.
As rich as he is, he avoids the high society celebrity cult with a passion. He spends his free evenings with his wife in a small three-bedroom house they bought 50 years ago, watching television and munching popcorn, just like the rest of us.
His down-to-earth style evokes images of Robert Service’s Dangerous Dan, coming here, plunking a poke on the bar, and ordering a round for the house. Although don’t bet on it, since his advice to young people doesn’t mention extravagance.
Stay away from credit cards, he tells them, and bank loans too. Invest in yourself; live life as simply as possible. Don’t wear brand names, wear what’s comfortable. Don’t waste money on unnecessary things; spend it on things you really need. He ends with a question: It’s your life, why allow others to rule it?
Family elders in the Dirty Thirties added money doesn’t grow on trees, get a roof over your head, and put some money away for a rainy day.
Mother Teresa, one of Grandma’s champions in our global village, was Buffet’s opposite. As poor as a church mouse we’re told, her human generosity many believe made her wealthier than the rich and famous. Her message was kindness in thought, word and deed. “Kind words,” she said, “are short and easy to speak but their echoes are endless,” and hers are still echoing around the world.
Anyway, here we are, with advice from the richest of the rich, the poorest of the poor, and Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and the Cowboy too.
The Cowboy, from the slow lane, was finally visiting friends in the big city after a decade in the foothills of the Rockies tending cows. In the city’s fast lane his friends herded him to their newest and biggest-ever mall, and turned him loose.
The day over, his cowboy boots worn to a frazzle, he was sipping a large drink. His city cousins asked why his hands were empty of shopping bags. “Well sir,” he drawled, “I reckon I’ve never seen more stuff I don’t need, than I did today!”
“But,” his city hosts cried, “if you don’t buy, the economy will die . . .,” but his glazed eyes cut them off. He headed west, they began pondering city imponderables: whether to go to Timmy’s, Starbucks, or be adventurous like the cowboy and go to one of those other coffee houses.
There they texted with friends about the Fitbit, the newest electronic gizmo. The size of a small flash drive, it wirelessly monitors your physical activity, estimates the calories you’re burning, interfaces with the web giving calorie information on 50,000 common foods and drinks, for only $99 US. The perfect gizmo to balance eat and drink at all the upcoming Christmas office parities.
The cowboy, already wrapped in a foothills sunset, remembering Robert Brault’s thought, “Enjoy the little things. One day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things,” started whistling, knowing, for him, he was in the right lane.
He’s going with the gift of self. The city slickers are going with the gift of money and things. With advice from rich and poor, I’m still scratching like the two robins who landed in our may trees yesterday, the 23rd of November. They’re eating frozen berries, preening and looking as fat and sassy as they would in July. Boy, if Mother Nature’s creatures are off kilter, what hope is there for me to figure out which lane to take? I do know I favour the northern lane.
A tip of the hat to November robins!