WAS BORN IN a one-room log cabin, where we lived three
miles from our nearest neighbor. During my first years
of life, I was monetarily poor, yet I grew up feeling
rich. I had clean air and water, deer around me, and time
with my mom and dad.
When I was five, we moved
into a more suburban area, so I could go to school and
have other friends to be with. I felt a
loneliness with that move. My life became a lot
more complicated when we had more things. There had been
very little fear in my first five years. Now we had doors
to lock, and many things to be afraid of. I realized not
everyone had opportunities and blessings I had taken for
granted. So, at the tender age of five, I began to learn
about the injustices of the world and, internally, I became
an activist. I resolved to do something to make this world
a better place. I knew something else was possible, and
I became committed to bringing that possibility to life
for more people.
When I was thirteen, my
Diet for a New America,
Until that point, we had lived simply. We always felt
we would have enough. My mom and dad worked hard to be
sure we were taken care of. Their first value was love.
Money was a vehicle to support love and life. It was a
means to an end, not an end in itself. I knew that money
was not the key to happiness. It could affirm and support
life, if that's how we used it, but we were not dependent
The book was an international
bestseller and my dad was elevated to a position of prominence.
Resources flowed in on a new level. For many years, however,
we still lived the lifestyle of a very low-income family.
Despite the books selling very well, letters pouring in
from enthusiastic readers, and my dad speaking all over
the country, we all felt unified in our choice to live
simply. We wanted to feel that time and life
were our focus, rather than things.
When I married, I moved
with my wife and parents to a larger home that enabled
us to stay together and become an extended family. This
is rare in our culture. We now have a three-generation
household; my mom and dad have the joy of being grandparents
and supporting us in being parents.
Using Our Wealth to Serve
I've found an underlying principle around money that remains
consistent: Instead of having stuff, a lot of people are
had by stuff. I've seen that people who attain greater
wealth don't spend less time thinking about or worrying
about money. What could be our greatest freedom can become
our greatest chain. The question is,
how to keep that from happening? How do we use our resources
to serve what we love and cherish? This is not to say
that some people don't need beautiful homes and cars for
various reasons. But we need to do it consciously-not
just think about what our wealth should bring us, but
what will it truly serve?
Wealth and Consumption
We need a lot of people setting
an example that great wealth and great consumption don't
necessarily go together. What an incredible example it
would have been if Bill Gates had built a small home,
instead of a huge mansion. What if he had said, "We're
just going to create a simple, beautiful home that gives
us peace of mind."
-Based on an interview
with Pamela Gerloff
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