More Than Money
Issue #27

Lifestyles of the Rich and Simple

Table of Contents

“Living the Legacy”

I WAS BORN IN a one-room log cabin, where we lived three miles from our nearest neighbor. During my first years of life, I was monetarily poor, yet I grew up feeling rich. I had clean air and water, deer around me, and time with my mom and dad.

When I was five, we moved into a more suburban area, so I could go to school and have other friends to be with. I felt a loneliness with that move. My life became a lot more complicated when we had more things. There had been very little fear in my first five years. Now we had doors to lock, and many things to be afraid of. I realized not everyone had opportunities and blessings I had taken for granted. So, at the tender age of five, I began to learn about the injustices of the world and, internally, I became an activist. I resolved to do something to make this world a better place. I knew something else was possible, and I became committed to bringing that possibility to life for more people.

When I was thirteen, my father's book, Diet for a New America, was published. Until that point, we had lived simply. We always felt we would have enough. My mom and dad worked hard to be sure we were taken care of. Their first value was love. Money was a vehicle to support love and life. It was a means to an end, not an end in itself. I knew that money was not the key to happiness. It could affirm and support life, if that's how we used it, but we were not dependent on it.

The book was an international bestseller and my dad was elevated to a position of prominence. Resources flowed in on a new level. For many years, however, we still lived the lifestyle of a very low-income family. Despite the books selling very well, letters pouring in from enthusiastic readers, and my dad speaking all over the country, we all felt unified in our choice to live simply. We wanted to feel that time and life were our focus, rather than things.

When I married, I moved with my wife and parents to a larger home that enabled us to stay together and become an extended family. This is rare in our culture. We now have a three-generation household; my mom and dad have the joy of being grandparents and supporting us in being parents.

Using Our Wealth to Serve
I've found an underlying principle around money that remains consistent: Instead of having stuff, a lot of people are had by stuff. I've seen that people who attain greater wealth don't spend less time thinking about or worrying about money. What could be our greatest freedom can become our greatest chain. The question is, how to keep that from happening? How do we use our resources to serve what we love and cherish? This is not to say that some people don't need beautiful homes and cars for various reasons. But we need to do it consciously-not just think about what our wealth should bring us, but what will it truly serve?

Wealth and Consumption
We need a lot of people setting an example that great wealth and great consumption don't necessarily go together. What an incredible example it would have been if Bill Gates had built a small home, instead of a huge mansion. What if he had said, "We're just going to create a simple, beautiful home that gives us peace of mind."

-Based on an interview with Pamela Gerloff

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