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Being comfortable with the 1%

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

I was at my volunteer shift last week when one of the staff members said "did you know the amount earned by the 1% is greater than the total of what the entire 99% earns?" The comment is innocent enough, but it was said with a tone of disdain. And another volunteer gave a head shake in disgusted agreement with this statement. They continued to discuss the unfairness of this reality. I was gratefully working on a busy project at the time and I was relieved that a response from me was not expected.

You see, I'm not so great at thinking on my feet. Responses for me aren't on standby and so I often remain silent. Most of the time, it doesn't matter. There are very few things I am so strongly convicted on that I wish to influence another person's position on it. VERY FEW.

So while this moment came and went, it caused me to pause and really consider why this disdain for the 1% exists. And it caused me to consider why I don't share in that disdain. After all, I have some paradigms of my own about money, wealth, and what we do and don't have, just like anyone else.

I happen to be an American. As an American, I am part of the 99%. At least I think I am - I don't actually know what the definition of the 1% is. I know I don't feel like the 1% and I don't fit with the image in my mind of what a 1% person looks like. I don't think I actually KNOW anyone in the 1%, so I can't even explain why I have an image of such a person anyway. How on earth would I know?

As an American, however, I am part of the 1% in global terms. You likely are, too. If you earned at least $32,400 in 2018 you are indeed in the top 1% globally. Check this article out if you don't think it's possible:

So, back to the American 1%. There seems to be a "we vs. them" attitude and "they" are the source of all our problems. Scrolling through social media will certainly show that the 99% have a lot of opinions on how the 1% should spend their money. When donations poured in to repair the Notre Dame Cathedral there was much criticism about all the OTHER worthy causes that weren't being funded.

I personally am grateful for the 1%. It shows me what is possible. It shows me that there are people who saw the dream of freedom, went after it, made some really smart moves, and crushed their goals. I think we naturally see life as a pie with limits, so if someone has a really big piece of pie, it means you or I have less. That's not at all how it works, though. Have you ever stopped to really think about what things would be like if there were no 1%? If everyone felt oppressed, limited, broke, and that life is just a struggle? Don't you want to see people prove that it actually can be better than that? Even if you never officially join the ranks of the 1%, life can hold so much more for you than where you are today.

I am still a work in progress. Yesterday my husband commented on the demanding schedule of a professional golfer he was watching. My knee-jerk reaction was the thought "why would I feel sorry for their schedule? They get paid SO MUCH, they can handle it. It's a choice." Friends, I never spoke those words. I caught myself in time. I remembered that I didn't see the hardships they endured to get where they are. I didn't see their sacrifices. I didn't see what they had to say "no" to and I would absolutely hate to have my schedule dictated to me, regardless of what I was paid. Besides, we are ALL doing what we chose. It may not be our "forever" goal but each of us, where we are RIGHT NOW, is a choice.

I've even been on the receiving end of this, even while far from the 1%. When I was graduating college I had a job lined up prior to graduation. I was so thrilled and relieved and proud of this accomplishment, but I received the words (with that tone of disdain again), "Hmph, must be nice...." You know what? It WAS nice. Nice because I lived well below the poverty line and struggled as a single parent while pursuing this degree. Nice because I had to juggle childcare without family nearby, balancing it with a changing school schedule each semester and had to figure out how to get to my exam when my kid was sick and I had no backup. Nice because for once, I could envision going to the grocery store and buying both Kleenex AND toilet paper because I could now afford both.

No one else walked the hard part with me. They only saw the victory and made a lot of assumptions based on that victory. I'm ashamed to say I'm so far removed from my perspective as a new college graduate that I've forgotten to see people with an understanding that they struggle, too. No matter what they earn.

So friends, start to look at the 1% differently along with me. Don't resent them - relate to them. And either embrace your current choices or find the power the change them. Life truly does have so much for you....

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