What People Think Oprah Should Do With Her Money

Recently a friend posted this on Facebook.


22 comments later, the comments got kind of heated.

It’s always interesting to me what ordinary people [like me] think Rich People [like Oprah] should do with their money. I find that the people who are the most vocal about how Rich People can SAVE MANKIND are fairly typical in their suggestions as to what they presume are the most pressing needs in our world. [Suggestions include: save a country, prevent and cure world hunger and thirst; prevent homicide, matricide, and suicide; cure debt, cure illiteracy, cure and decrease infant mortality, end child abuse and crimes against women; prevent disease; crackdown on drugs; spend more/less on military, spend more/less on peace initiatives, and so on].

When I hear what the rich aren’t doing, I immediately tend to wonder: “What if the shoe were on the other foot?” What if these vocal critics with their elevated sense of personal intuition, philanthropy, altruism and economic savvy had some or all of “Oprah’s Money,” would they do exactly what they suggested she do?

Now lest you think I’m a complete ass, my intention is not to chastise or belittle the very real concerns that ordinary people [like me] have. I too have raged against the “rich”—a quantifiable category if ever there was one—for their seeming lack of desire to end the ills of society, but I now see how ill-conceived my expectations really are. [For the record, I believe that Ordinary People with shoe closets are rich]. I also know that each of us, in our own way gives what we think it is incumbent upon us to give no more, no less.

For a sobering reality check on how much money “Oprah’s Money” is “worth,” against what the country of the United States owes in debt check this out.

To escape the pressures of our present everyday lives, we often engage in hypothetical what-ifs to not only assuage and placate our inner jealousies or regrets, but to “live the dream” as it were. This is normal. And by not giving ourselves the opportunity to exchange the real world for the occasional un/realistic fantasy world, we find that life as we know it could potentially become a grind. As a result, many of us dream big [by imagining how we could spend other people’s money] and some of us aspire to do other things like worry how we’ll spend our own money.

money-money-money-moneyIt is clear to me that Oprah had a dream, and continues to dream. Recall the stories of how she built her empire. It all began with a series of journal entries in which she made a money pact. With a view towards her professional life, she vowed that she would make a certain amount of money for each significant age she turned. For example at 20, she told herself that would make $20,000. When she reached the age of 30 she was able to discern that this money pact would grow beyond what she could have earlier perceived, but that did not stop her from setting new goals and new standards. Clearly, this is a woman who champions milestones and achievement by the strength and measure of her own personal growth. To me, it is quite obvious that Oprah has a calling and a destiny and that she continues to answer that call and follow that destiny. What I don’t understand is why we care about her journey so much.

There is a great and undeniable pressure for people who seemingly have “everything” to give people who have “nothing,” something. In some cases, these scenarios work, and in other’s they don’t. However, believing that taking from the rich and giving to the poor is the panacea is a mistake. And while seemingly well-intentioned, this belief is not without its own set of real and imagined problems. Sorry Robin Hood. [My own personal philosophies lean towards “sharing the wealth” and that won’t change when I get rich, and you can hold me to that.]

In our world, each one of us has the human potential to live, learn, love and achieve. Albeit, some of us have what “appears” to be an insurmountable deck of cards stacked against our ability to survive, thrive and live. It also “appears” that some of us have privilege and opportunity beyond that which some of us could ever imagine. Such is life. And it isn’t fair, because life isn’t fair. Which means that we must push through and persevere the best way we know how. Which means that each of us has the potential to experience a unique version of success and achievement that will be different and custom-fit to our particular DNA. Which means that the onus to achieve our particular destiny rests solely with us.

I also believe that it is incredibly self-defeating and depressing to continually rage against and about what is “wrong with society.” [Which is not to say that one shouldn’t.] My mother, a wise woman, used to say, “the world doesn’t owe you a living, however, you have a right to make a living.” These are two very different philosophies to live and espouse. Increasingly, it’s becoming more difficult to embrace these philosophies when we, The Media, set ourselves up to live with envy, gossip and innuendo desiring what others have regardless of whether we’ve esteemed they’ve earned it, or deserve it. Imagine the scrutiny!

When and if we spend our lives comparing what somebody else has against what we do not have, we will never win. The other day, I asked the question, how come nobody ever says, “Gee, I hope I get what I deserve!” Instead folks say, “You know, what I really want, is what so and so has.” Call it human nature or call it stupidity. We can’t “have” what others “have” because they have it. Simple.

A long time ago I got hip to the idea, and embraced the notion that my African name, Bolaji which means “born into prosperity” didn’t just mean financial prosperity. And when people would ask for a meaning, which people are wont to do, I would say that for me I think it means that I will prosper in other ways. I do still, however, occasionally think about my big “pay-out” and rest assured I will not lose any sleep worrying about other people’s expectations about what I should do with my money.

Lastly, I think we need to broaden our scope about what it is that human beings are capable of giving. Because we often understand giving in terms of dollar signs, and because we place a high monetary value on “success” we automatically assume that giving means financially. But what about the other ways in which we give? I would venture to say that what Oprah has “given” society cannot only be measured by dollars and cents. How does she give? Let us count the ways…





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