rich man, poor man…

I recently attended a charity dinner to help raise funds for a family in need.

Because of my strong personal feelings on what had transpired on that evening, l will refrain from mentioning any specific information regarding those involved.

The event was held at a popular tourist destination in Seattle. It was semi-formal and local restaurateurs supplied the provisions. I have been looking forward to attending after I heard the back-story of the family involved.

All three children in the family were afflicted with the same degenerative disease. Currently, there is no known cure; however,  a promising study was able to show that slowing down the disorder was possible. This fundraiser was to encourage and promote ongoing research.

The event had it’s usual elements: silent auction, free-flowing food and beverages, and the heart-wrenching plea from the family.

What should have been a profound display of emotional appeal, instead showed an exhibit of material excess and self-worth.

Halfway through the event, they played a taped video of the family telling their story.  Typically after watching, it is customary to solicit money from the audience. The monies raised during this portion is in-addition-to the evening’s auction and will go toward the final goal, which was $75,000. The emcee will call out amounts ranging from $5,000 to $100 and everyone is encouraged to raise their numbered paddle to make a donation. Unlike the silent auction, your generosity will not net you a cool prize or a neat gift, but rather the knowledge that you are helping an excellent cause.

The video mostly featured the father discussing the challenges his family has faced dealing with this horrible disease. He showed each child and talked about how they coped with the issues of trying to live a normal life.

A very successful local businessman and with strong ties to the community, his “tragedy” (as he put it) was just a “bump-on-the-road.”

And that’s when it hit me. I noticed his interview was conducted by a lake. In the background showed children darting in and out of the shot riding on Sea-Doos. He then pointed out that they were taping this particular scene on their lakeside vacation home. The children in the background where his children playing on their new “toys”. As he pointed to them, his gold-ringed finger gleamed in the sunlight.

The next scene showed the mother sitting on an expansive leather couch in a living room with a high, vaulted ceiling. Mount Rainier majestically rose behind her and she spoke of how “this big house” felt very empty when all three children were hospitalized. Life-sized paintings and iron sculptures adorned every space available. Her sparkling finger bested that of her husband’s.

In the several minutes that ensued, this family’s apparent wealth was prominently flaunted and dangled for everyone to witness.

I know I have no idea what their true emotional state was nor can I truly begin to fathom how this illness has affected their lives. One thing though was for certain: there was no genuine need for this family to seek any sort of financial aid from anyone. Never has the adage “charity begins at home” rung truer than ever.

There are countless of families who have given up their homes and lives to take care of an ailing child. Families uprooted and living in cars and hospitals waiting for a cure. This family showed off their material possessions and had done nothing to change their excessive lifestyle. They could’ve have sold one of their three homes and raised the needed $75,000 ten times over! And that’s just one house! What about his  custom 7-series BMW in the driveway or her Lexus parked in the garage??? Truly, modesty and humility were lost in this family.

That night, I have never felt so disinclined to part with my hard-earned money as I had ever before in my entire life. I know this was to benefit the children, but after what I had witnessed, I declined to raise my paddle.

The following day, I went to the hospital where the research was being conducted. I met briefly with the liaison officer and asked about the other families involved in the program. I handed her a check and gave her one major stipulation: this was to go to the child that was in need of it the most.


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