Do you remember that television show from the fifties, “The Millionaire”? A polite man would arrive at a stranger’s door and award them one million dollars. The generous benefactor he represented always insisted on anonymity. The recipients were shocked, some thoroughly confused. Most did not believe their good fortune. But what they did with the money was the real focus of the each episode. While the stories that unfolded were always fascinating, they didn’t always have a happy ending.
My take-away as a kid? I longed for the opportunity to demonstrate that I could do just the right thing if this guy showed up on our front step!
My mother seemed to enjoy daydreaming about a windfall as well. (As a single working mother of two, I can see why it appealed to her as well. On more than one occasion, we figured out how far the change in her wallet would stretch.) She loved to play what we called “The Millionaire Game.” We’d sit in the shade on a hot summer’s day (there were plenty of these in San Diego) and fantasize about what we’d buy with a whole million dollars. If I recall, the first thing she always said was that she’d get her ‘trusty old Bendix” washing machine up and running. Me? I always asked for a horse.
You may be wondering what got me thinking about this, of all things? I think it was because throughout the holiday season, I’m always aware of the economic disparity that exists in our country.
I was lucky. I managed to get an education, have a wonderful career, and be able to provide for my family. (My kids even had a horse at one point … an 18 year old glue pot on four legs who we all loved!) Yes, I worked very hard and, thanks to my mother, I learned how to budget money. But times were different then and the opportunities I had simply don’t exist today.
So many families struggle these days. In spite of how hard they work, they can barely make ends meet. There seems to be a belief that success is just a matter of putting your shoulder into it. If only it was that simple. The reality is that millions of people work full-time jobs and qualify for public assistance. This strikes me as being fundamentally wrong.
I bet you’re thinking I have some brilliant answer to this demoralizing dilemma. Sorry, no such luck. Maybe all I can respectfully request is that we put judgement aside and recognize that many, many people are doing the absolute best they can under some pretty dire circumstances.