It wouldn’t be Christmas without the stories in the media about the givers among us. I found it heartwarming this morning to read about folks in our town who collected toys – including a coveted mountain bike – for the 9-year-old who told his mother to take the money she would spend on his Christmas and buy gifts for the poor. And I was encouraged by the New York Times report that a billionaire gave hundreds of millions to create a high-tech graduate school on Roosevelt Island.
But even more encouraging – to me anyway – was Yahoo News’ revelation that 80-year-old Charles F. Feeney (photo above, left), the Cornell alumnus who is funding the university’s high-tech project, flies coach, wears a $15 watch, and doesn’t own a house or a car.
Here’s someone who understands, I thought as I read the item.
You fly in an airplane or ride in a car to get from one place to another. You own a house to shelter you from the sun and rain. You wear a watch to tell the time. Any other way of looking at it is nothing more than vanity.
So what makes so many people so rapacious? What can their money buy that is more useful than Mr. Feeney’s $15 watch?
The Koch brothers come to mind. And I wonder why they would destroy their country to accumulate more wealth than they already possess.
And what about Mitt Romney? This man, who wants to be president of the United States, owns several houses and is tearing down one of them to rebuild it even bigger. I bet his watch didn’t cost $15. But I bet Mr. Feeney can tell the time just as efficiently as he can.
What about Newt Gingrich, another pretender to the presidency, who found it necessary to have a half-million-dollar jewelry account at Tiffany’s? Might he not have felt better donating that money to some useful or humanitarian project?
Perhaps not. But Mr. Feeney did.
And what about the millionaires and billionaires who lobby Congress to block President Obama’s jobs bill? Who fight desperately to avert a minuscule tax increase that would help deliver millions of their fellow-Americans from misery? Who directed their Republican lackeys to raise the payroll tax on 160 million middle-class Americans?
What drives them?
Do they hate us? Hate us for not being rich?
Do they fly first class to thumb their noses at the other passengers, huddled in coach?
Can they enjoy their wealth only if the rest of us suffer?
Is their Christmas merrier when ours is more miserable?
Pondering these mysteries, I am prompted to wonder why the Feeneys among us don’t run for office, and why the Romneys and Gingriches do.
(Photo above, right, shows 9-year-old Tabrian Grant, 9, receiving gifts donated by Lakeland, Florida, residents from “Secret Santas” Fred Bentkowski, left, and Cynthia Grimes, as reported in The Ledger. Click here to read the story.)