Today I was in the grocery store, worried about money and keeping the cost of my purchases as low as possible. (As usual). To help with this, I try and do my big grocery hauls at Checkers. Since moving flat in January, I’ve been walking to the Checkers around the corner from my flat. This store, despite being stationed in a rather nice area, is bordering a taxi rank, and hence is generally frequented by folk who earn very, very little.
As I was pushing my little trolley (which was relatively full of fresh foods and veg) around the store like a bat outta hell, I began frantically glancing down the isles hunting for “the one with the JC Le Roux” (a birthday gift for a friend). In doing this, I intermittently looked up – and my eyes locked on to a sweet-looking elderly lady. She was black, probably in her early 60’s, and holding a colouring in set (clear packet with some crayons, pencils, a book and a sharpener of sorts). She was standing dead still, and her trolley had only a few items in it. Something compelled me to take a quick look; in it were the real basics – sanitary pads, some soap, some tinned food, one of the cheaper loaves of bread.
As she held the colouring set up in her hands (which looked somewhat like the do-hicky above), looking at it thoughtfully (nowhere near the stationary isle I might add), I would have LIKED to believe that she was looking at the set to see if it had her granddaughter’s favourite shade of pink inside. And that her trolley was only barely lined because that was all she needed that day. I would have LIKED to believe that everybody else’s trolley in the store was also only half as full as my trolley (which was not very full, but by no means empty) because they, too, only needed a few items that day.
However, the reality of the situation was that the lady holding the cheap (rather crappy) colouring set in her hands, with her sparse looking trolley, was probably trying to decide if she could afford the “luxury” item. This was not sanitary pads, or food, or soap. This was crayons and pencils. This was unnecessary. Her eyes looked sad. And unsure.
All of this happened in a matter of moments. I put my head down again and continued pushing my trolley toward my coveted bottle of JC Le Roux – although in a little less haste this time.
The situation reminded me of a situation about ten years back. I had been siting in our car, waiting for my mother while she ran into the grocery store. This was a Checkers as well, funnily enough. And this particular Checkers was also frequented by folk earning very, very little. As my mother got back into the car, she turned and said to me:“The old lady in front of me had to put her bar of Sunlight soap back was she was paying – she couldn’t afford it”. My mom (in true characteristic form) had then leaned over and paid for the bar of Sunlight soap. “No one should have to go without soap”, she said matter-of-factly.
And that was that.
I don’t know much about economics. Hell, I don’t even know how to manage my own personal finances. But I do know two things: I know that 1) communism in its purest form – doesn’t work. Never really has, and probably never really will. And I know that 2) situations like the ones I’ve described above will become far less common place when we stop trying to put and end to poverty, and we start to consider putting an end to extreme wealth.
There. I said it. Gasp.
But let’s think about it. With stats like 1% of the worlds population possessing 99% of the worlds financial wealth (or something along those lines), wouldn’t it be so much easier to focus on that 1% in order to tackle the problem? Like, oh, I dunno, 99 times easier? Maybe?
The point that I was getting too (I’m verbose, deal with it), is that I’m really, really impressed with Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx, and the youngest self made female billionaire on the Forbes list. Apparently she’s recently joined the Gates Foundation’s Giving Pledge – a philanthropic movement initiated by Buffet and Gates, which encourages the worlds richest folk to give away half of their money – to charity.
While these folk will still be left with more money than you or I could probably count (even if you ARE good at economics), I have to say I’m genuinely moved by the idea’s they are publicly promoting.
After all, as somebody (else, in spandex) once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”.