I sat writing this in a local restaurant, watching dozens of people spending big bucks on meals. Discombobulated, seeing money roll out of pockets, I ran to the grocery store, only to stare at more high prices (why, oh why did we get a Whole Foods instead of a Trader Joe’s?)
Then I walked around town seeing empty, wealthy homes and thinking: gentrification… such a perfect word, gentleman! Is this a monopoly game? I’m dumbfounded! “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?” (Chief Seattle)
We either work our asses off or build mansions. Wealth in the top one percent of the population is more than that of the bottom 90 percent combined. Lots of people are scratching their heads, and other parts, while gawking at the price of broccoli.
Don’t worry though, I have an idea. How about this slogan: “One House is Enough?” Maybe we could even the playing field that way… unless collecting rent is a basic, reasonable income, why not? And let’s start giving more – take half off of something you sell, or help a friend. Just give a damn – it could be a kind gesture, services, more trades, employee-owned businesses, more sliding scales, tips, gifts, volunteering, dog-walking, or dropping a bag of prunes at the neighbors’ door.
We need more of it, and not just donations. My smog guy took 30 dollars off my bill, unexpectedly, because I waited an extra 15 minutes for him. I will never forget the floor guy who said: “Pay me when you can.” A girlfriend left a blouse at my door! Giving is contagious. “A personality awakens itself by how it gives.” (David Brooks)
Generosity of spirit can go viral. We’re all used to struggling with Comcast or insurance companies raising fees or shoveling us around, even our doctors. But our town could have a new vision. Remember when the person in front of us would pay our toll going over the Golden Gate Bridge? Giving is a gesture that creates a new vibe and milieu. It changes community.
“Consumerism amputates what is central to the person for the sake of material acquisition.” (Brooks). When 40 percent of Americans have to struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, we have anger, depression, and more isolation because we’re commuting, stuck financially, or behind our phones and computers. Sunny Sonoma seems gleeful and rich, but we know money fear isn’t good for our bodies or our world.
The great power of generosity goes a long way towards eliminating the destructive power of poverty. Edward Abbey wrote, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Make Sonoma great again! Propose do-able ideas to newspapers and local government. Stop the debauchery of greed. We still have an opportunity here to show our concern for the common good now and for future generations. Show your concern and care, in gestures and not just donations. All of us can be more generous; it puts a bounce in our step, empowers us, and last but not least – inspires hope.