Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Purchase on a List

There is something inside of some people that makes them desire money and the things that can be purchased with money. Most people, the financially rich and the financially poor, the Christian and the non-Christian, believe that more money in their bank account will mean more happiness in their life. Despite what Jesus and Scripture have to say about money being a deterrent to Kingdom of Heaven matters, most people still place a high value on financial wealth. Despite what some people know to be true about money, they still have a desire in their heart for more money.

From 1992 until 1994, I had the opportunity to work as a Real Estate Appraiser in Southern California. It was a period when interest rates were dropping, home sales were increasing, and many other home owners wanted to refinance their mortgage and lower their payments. During this period, I appraised homes in all areas of Southern California from the poorest parts of Central Los Angeles and Riverside to the wealthiest parts of Palos Verdes, Malibu, and South Orange County. This experience allowed me to observe people in the complete range of financial situations who owned or wanted to own houses.

I think many of my observations would surprise a whole lot of people. From my observations, the people who owned the big houses weren’t any happier than the people who owned the small houses. Often times though, the people who lived in the multi-million dollar properties were downright miserable. Not all, but a good percentage of these wealthy home owners did nothing but complain from the time I met them and started appraising their house until the time I completed my appraisal and left. Some of the complaints were about money matters and some of the complaints were about other life matters from ungrateful children to poor lawn and pool service. If money buys happiness, why would these people in the big houses be so miserable?

From my observations, people with the small houses took just as much pride, and sometimes even more pride in home ownership than the people with the big houses. I can’t count the number of times a girl or boy in Riverside or Central Los Angeles would make sure I saw their immaculately cleaned closet-sized bedroom or how many times I walked into a house in Palos Verdes where an eight hundred square foot bedrooms was filled with junk and trash. If money buys dignity, why were these people in mansions so undignified?

I can tell you however, from my experience as a Real Estate Appraiser, there was a difference between the financially wealthy and the financially poor that was almost universally true. The people with the small houses in bad neighborhoods almost always treated me with more respect and more kindness than the people in the big houses in the good neighborhoods. The people in the small houses appreciated how I was able to help them lower their payments while the people in the big houses considered me as just another entity that could be bought with the money in their bank account.

My experience as an appraiser makes me wonder if the financially poor need the help of the financially rich, or perhaps in reality, it is the other way around. In many cases, it is the financially rich who are truly the “least of these brothers of mine.” My experience as an Appraiser makes me wonder if those who contribute and support some charities consider charitable donations just another purchase on their list.

My next post will be an open letter to the financially rich on behalf of the financially poor.

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