By Lee Brower
Recently I was having dinner with a very successful money/family office manager. I consider him to be a leader who has a tremendous amount of expertise, a phenomenal support team, impeccable integrity and someone who’s admired and respected by his clients. Unquestionably, he is very passionate about giving back. His tireless efforts and enthusiasm to support an international school for disadvantaged, orphaned young men and women is very compelling and aroused a desire within me to support his efforts. He is a very impressive person.
However, as the night progressed we began discussing his clients’ children. To my surprise he adamantly declared that he had no interest whatsoever in working with his clients’ children— the second and/or third generations.
“There is no passion there for me,” he admitted. “In many cases, these generations do not have the gratitude, the spark, the drive and the interest that their parents have. To me, they seem lost and unappreciative. I have better things to do with my time.”
I admired his candidness and in some respects could not argue with him. However, it reminded me of a story from Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money. Beginning on page 28, she recounts how she had a monumental, once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Mother Teresa.
She shares how a very wealthy couple rudely interrupted their meeting and was disrespectful to Mother Teresa. Lynne was so taken aback by the incident that she felt inspired to write Mother Teresa an apology for her struggle to forgive this couple for what had occurred. I quote from page 35 of her book:
“Weeks later I received a letter from her in her own hand. In her reply she admonished me, saying that while I had expressed compassion for the poor, the sick, the faint, and the weak all my life, that would always be a place where my self-expression and service would easily flourish. The vicious cycle of poverty, she said, has been clearly articulated and is widely known. What is less obvious and goes almost completely unacknowledged is the vicious cycle of wealth. There is no recognition of the trap that wealth so often is, and of the suffering of the wealthy: the loneliness, the isolation, the hardening of the heart, the hunger and poverty of the soul that can come with the burden of wealth. She said that I had extended little or no compassion to the strong, the powerful, and the wealthy, while they need as much compassion as anyone else on earth.”
“You must open your heart to them and become their student and their teacher,” she said in her letter. “Open your compassion and include them. This is an important part of your life’s work. Do not shut them out. They also are your work.”
Twist goes on to talk about how the financially rich live trapped in a prison of privilege in which material comforts are plentiful, but spiritual and emotional deprivation are real and painful.
I wonder if our efforts to assist the poor and suffering have caused us to neglect the so-called “entitled” generations. Perhaps by converting wealth receivers into value creators, it would have a major impact on those who are economically, politically and socially disadvantaged and destitute.