FATHER AND UNCLE were the founders and owners of Baskin-Robbins,
which became the largest ice cream retailer in the world.
As the only son, I was expected to follow in my father's
footsteps. I was groomed for it, working in the factory,
the office, in merchandising, even inventing ice cream
flavors. I loved it. I ate more ice cream than any kid
could ever hope to eat. We even had an ice cream coneshaped
swimming pool at home.
I wasn't very healthy,
though, and neither was most of my family. My uncle died
of a heart attack and my father developed serious diabetes
and high blood pressure. All of those correlate medically
with a lot of cholesterol, fat, and sugar in the diet,
which, of course, ice cream has.
I had grown up in a value
system that was oriented around making money and I felt
the emptiness of that, and of the environmental destruction
that would ensue if we continued with the kind of consumption
such a value system fostered. I also didn't want my work
to be undermining health; I wanted to contribute to the
well being of people's lives and hearts and souls. So
when I was 21, I decided not to accept my father's generous
offer to take over the business with him. I didn't want
any of his money; I didn't want to depend on his achievements
and his fortune. I wanted to have my own values. So I
chose to be true to myself.
I walked away from an enormous
amount of money (it was a billion dollar company at the
time) and then lived a polar opposite life. My wife and
I lived on less than $1,000 a year in a oneroom log cabin
on an island off British Columbia. We grew our own food,
did yoga, meditated. We attuned our lives to the deeper
rhythms of the planet, and tried to find that place where
our joy and the world's needs meet.
We found we were much happier
living simply. We had more time with each other and our
son; our creativity blossomed; we were able to follow
the call of our own inner voice with less encumbrance.
It was a huge pendulum swing away from the way I had grown
Now I'm older, I have grandchildren,
my books have been successful, and I have some money and
security. I am not a fan of poverty, but I am a big fan
I still live fairly simply.
I own some land with a little house on it, a big orchard,
and a garden. We use solargenerated power and we do a
lot of things to simplify our lives. For example, we live
with my son, his wife, and their two children. We share
two cars among us, minimizing the mileage we put on them.
We make an effort not to drive unnecessarily, because
it's polluting, it's expensive, and it's a drag. I would
rather spend time singing, dancing, and working in the
garden than driving on asphalt highways. I choose to spend
as much time with my family as I can and not get lost
in doing things just for money.
Those of us with money
are in a unique situation because we have choices that
others may not have. How we make those choices defines
us as people and determines the nature of our impact on
our environment. Our responsibility in this area and our
ability to impact the future are greatly multiplied by
the resources we have. This greater responsibility is
a privilege, not something to feel guilty about. We have
the opportunity to use our resources to further the things
we believe in and that are in alignment with our dreams
for the world.
Early on, I saw that the
people who are truly rich are those who are in touch with
their spirits. Seeing this, I made life choices that would
allow me to express my spirit and values. Living in a
sick culture, you have to work to know what you're really
hungry for, what you crave, what your urges are, and what
feeds you. When you do that work, you start with small
steps. Eventually, you're running, leaping, dancing, flying.
-Based on an interview
with Pamela Gerloff
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved