Why is it always about money?
I DIDN’T believe it at first.
There was no possible way that what my 12-yearold son was telling me could be true, but he insisted.
See, he has an after-school job packing groceries at a local supermarket and earns money through tips customers give him. He starts straight after school and as such is in his uniform.
But there seemed to be a problem, so he told me he thought it would be better if he did not wear his uniform.
It seemed to work because he made so much more money when he wasn’t in his uniform.
He told me there were times when people were about to give him money but looked at his school logo and took it back.
How odd! I couldn’t fathom it, so I decided to see for myself and to my horror he was right.
Being my persistent warrior self, I decided to get to the root of it and I asked.
I stopped a male customer, who took the money back, and cordially asked him why, while explaining I was the little boy’s mom.
The response shocked me.
“Do you have no shame? Why are you all acting like you all don’t have money when your son goes to the most expensive private school? Why should I give him my money when you all have enough? You should be embarrassed,” the man said. Wow! Then some people who know my parents also expressed concerns about their successful business and social reputations being tainted by having their grandson pack groceries as a “job”.
What would people think? And still another mom asked me how I could do that to my child.
As parents we should give our children the best – everything we didn’t have. We should work for them and make sure they don’t lack anything.
And it brought me to a few conclusions.
Are we really defined by the clothes and labels we wear, cars we drive and houses we live in? When do we start defining ourselves as human beings first?
As a society what have our values become, really? What are the real issues that should actually embarrass us and why do we always have to paint this picture to everyone that is so valueless?
I mean, we all know this for a fact. Go to any function and the first question people will ask is: “What’s your child doing now?” before they proceed to tell you how successful they are.
You always hear how their children are doctors, lawyers, business owners, live in big houses and drive fancy cars.
Not once do I ever hear anyone say their children are doing well emotionally, mentally and physically as spouses and parents or that they are kind, respectful and happy. It’s always about money.
Another thing that concerns me is the fact that the “richer” people are seen as inhuman and so they are set apart from society.
The truth is that every day I see more and more delinquency among our youth as a result of that mindset.
Money seems to make them believe they are untouchable, above the law and above moral standing.
So it brings me to this: Exactly what legacy are we giving to our children? Firstly, my son changing his clothes to make more money is teaching him to be a liar and hypocrite.
That’s not success and not something to be proud of. In fact that embarrasses me.
Secondly, while my children lack nothing and my husband and I have created a comfortable life for them, our money is not his.
One day, in the very distant future, it will be, but for now it belongs to us.
He needs to learn that money doesn’t just come from secretly guarded treasure troves that never run out, which means he can do and have as he pleases.
That in fact is creating a mentality of entitlement and the notion that nothing has to be ventured to be gained. That attitude will see my husband and I forgotten about in our old age and maybe left in a home because our son will be too busy spending all the money we accumulated for him with no effort on his part.
The truth is my parents, my husband and I may be “successful” by these new standards but we are also so much more than that.
My mom and dad were not born successful nor were my siblings and I. It all took effort. I love listening to the stories of how they reached the level of success they did. My dad was once a taxi driver, who lived in a condemned area in Temple Road, one of the poorest areas in Durban, and my mom grew up in Inanda where she walked kilometres to fetch water she carried on her head, while studying by candlelight.
They lived in tin houses and slept in rooms with countless other people and usually ate the same food every day – mealie rice and chutney.
They also had to work odd jobs to earn extra money. My mom even helped her mother clean people’s houses. Their parents did not have money that they could rely on.
Their parents were barely surviving themselves, so they had to create their own possibilities and they did but here is where I believe their greatest value lies and my most priceless inheritance.
They have the kindest and most giving hearts because they understand struggle and to this day they give so freely of themselves to everyone that needs it and I count the human value they left me as my greatest heritage.
I too worked as a waitress, packer in a supermarket and even a clown in a garage, while my parents struggled on their way to success and you know what it taught me above all else? How to be a survivor. So yes, my son packs groceries every day in a supermarket but let me tell you what his inheritance is now.
He now knows there is a world outside of his rich and prestigious circle. He now knows the value of money.
When we went shopping previously he would randomly fill the trolley with every luxury possible whether he wanted it or not.
He now actually knows the price of things and is shocked by what things cost.
He now understands the difference between want and need. He now has gained a new respect for people, who work in the various positions like packers, cashiers, car guards, petrol attendants and waitresses and is now first to appreciate them.
He now respects money like we expect him to respect everything in life.
Previously he used to throw the money we gave him anywhere in his room without a care and then expect more but now he keeps all the money he earns safely in a money packet and then goes with me to deposit it in his account.
And best of all, he has now learnt how to greet people, talk to people from all walks of life and see the struggle people face financially.
He understands that nothing is achieved without hard work, time and action.
Tash Reddy is an entrepreneur, film and radio producer, motivational writer and speaker and founder of Widowed