“It is the way one treats his inferiors more than the way he treats his equals which reveals one’s real character.”
—Rev. Charles Bayard Miliken, Methodist Episcopal, Chicago. (Quote Investigator)
“How do you get all these rich friends?” I asked.
“I used to be really rich!” my friend said. Which was true, back before the housing market tanked and with it the careers of individuals all over the United States.
“Oh I’ve got to tell you this one story,” he continued, smiling. “Back when I had tons of money and I retained these lawyers, I knew this really rich guy. And he paid the lawyers like millions because of his business. Well he required that they always have a bowl of peanuts at their office when he showed up. So the people would find out he was on his way and then pull out this bowl of peanuts from a desk drawer and put it out for him.”
I nodded and so did the other guy listening to the story.
“Well the rich guy would come in and grab a handful of peanuts and start cracking them open in his hands and eating them, tossing the shells,” he motioned over his shoulder. I raised my eyebrows.
“Just dropping them on the floor?” I asked.
He nodded. “So I asked him, ‘why do you do that?’ and he said, ‘because I can.'”
At this, the speaker burst into laughter. The other guy joined in. This was absolutely hilarious to both men.
I looked on in shock. Why would ruining a receptionist or janitor’s day be funny?
“I wouldn’t want to be friends with that guy,” I said.
Both men looked sideways at me and then ignored my comment, still laughing. I marveled at this for a moment, when it occurred to me – while neither of these individuals could currently be considered very wealthy, both of them grew up with money.
I, on the other hand, grew up with no money. My dad supported our family with $30,000-$35,000 a year, which was a bit more back then, but nothing to get excited about when you have 7 people to feed.
I know what it’s like to be a Target Sales Floor team member. I know what it’s like to make and sell pretzels. I know the pains of the barista and the librarian. I’ve watered plants and run a cash register. I worked my way through college and bore the majority of the weight of paying for it.
And now I was an executive at a small company, writing for a living, something I had only dreamed of as a child.
Because of careful budgeting, I have extra money that can be saved each month. I have the ability to travel. I have so many beautiful things that I, with the support of a superb family and hardworking parents, worked hard to achieve.
I am currently the richest I have ever been in my life, and I make less than the median income in the United States. Which is fine, btw, no complaints here.
If a high-paying client came into my company’s offices and threw peanut shells all over the floor, our hardworking receptionist would inevitably be tasked with cleaning them up. And my respect for the client would be in the toilet. Who cares how much money he pays us?
Because I know what it’s like to work hard and be treated like dirt by people who could.
And in that single moment, I realized that the two men talking to me didn’t know. They had no idea.
Dear people with money to spare, poor people don’t hate you simply because you are rich. We often hate you because of what you do with your riches.
Because the way you treat your inferiors has a lot to say about your character.
Jessie is a writer, filmmaker, long boarder, sister, teacher, friend, daughter, laugher, aunt, Christ-follower, eater and occasional blogger with an eye on becoming an avid traveler. Check out some of Jessie’s latest film work here.