True Purpose of Wealth

by Patrick Liew on August 27, 2018

True Purpose of Wealth

“So, why do you care?!”

That was the question that Professor Aldai Wertman posed to my class. He did it in his usual gentle but provocative tone.

Prior to that, he had put up a slide that showed the backs of two children.

It was obvious that they were malnourished and were going through hard times.

Surrounding them was a barren land, hot and arid and without any form of life. In front of them was a long muddy track leading to the horizon.

In the minds of most of us, it was leading to nowhere.

The track and everything in the picture captured a state of helplessness and a sense of hopelessness.

Professor Wertman repeated the question and added, “Why do you care about these children?

Should you even care about these children, after all you’ve not met them and will never ever meet them in your entire life?”

He scanned the room, his eyes staring right through our minds and into our hearts.

If he had any answer to his questions, it was clear that he was not going to tell us.

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, an Afro-American in my class spoke up.

He probably thought that he had to speak up for another black fellow human.

“I see myself in them. Somebody helped me in the past and I should do the same for another poor soul.

“You can call it giving back. It can also be paying forward. I should and must help them.”

The good Professor pointed to one of my classmates.

I’m sure she knew beforehand that she would be picked because she has been to different parts of Africa on social missions.

“I care because it is not their fault. I have been blessed and therefore, I’m obligated to reach out to them.”

The student from Qatar who was sitting behind her raised his hands.

He spoke excitedly, “I care because it makes me feel good. I feel happy when I can help someone in need.”

In response, the Professor quipped, “Ah, that’s what we call a warm and ‘Fawzi’ feeling”. The class laughed because that was his name.

Another Afro-American continued the discussion. His comment put the class through a sobering moment.

“I care because I met them. I know how it feels to be in need. I know what it means when you can’t turn to anybody and you feel like you’re all alone to face problems.”

A philosophical friend of mind responded to him. Till this day, I still do not know if she was just putting up a counter-argument or giving her view about the subject matter.

“I care but I need to have a purpose for doing it. I can’t possibly care for them first.

“I need to look after my loved ones and the people around me. When I’m in a better position, then I will take action to care for these kids.”

The Professor smiled not so much because he agreed with the answer.

I believe he smiled because there were many less altruistic reasons for caring but it didn’t matter as long as help was given to the two disadvantaged children.

Another of my classmates argued, “I care because I can do something right now. I’m not sure if I can help the rest but at this moment, I can save two more fellow humans.”

In response, the Professor told us the Starfish Story.

In a nutshell, it was a story about how two friends found a beach full of starfish.

They were washed ashore after a tsunami and left to die under
the hot afternoon sun.

One of the boys started to pick up the starfish one after and another. He threw it back to the sea.

His friend persuaded him to give up. He asked him, “How can you save all the starfish?”

The reply that came back fast and certain was, “At least, I can save this one.” With that statement, he threw one more starfish back into the water.

A priest in my class shared passionately on her view: “I believe God created us to care. I care because He cares for me. I’m doing what He designed me to do and to me, it’s a natural thing to do.”

Another person continued along the same vein. “I care because of the love and grace of God for my life. One of these two children could very well be me. How can I not help?”

Obviously, nobody in my class was about to respond to his rhetorical question.

Throughout the discussion, I was hoping the Professor would pick me to share my thoughts.

Like a good Asian kid, I kept silent and was listening intently to the others while trying to fine-tune my answer.

The Professor tried to swerve the discussion away from the religious slant.

He told the class, “There are scientists who believe that all of us have an altruistic gene. We are genetically wired to love and care for others.”

After making the last statements, he started walking back to his computer. It seemed like he was putting the discussion behind him.

“Hold it Professor!” I shouted out to him. “You have not given us your views about the subject.”

I could see he was feeling very uneasy right before my eyes.

I was putting him back on the hot seat and somehow, that was not part of the script.

At least it was not part of the script that was crafted by the Professor and which he was the director of the drama for that day.

For one fleeting moment I thought to myself, there goes some of my marks for this subject.

I was afraid to lose any mark, I could not afford to lose them without failing the subject.

His reply was brilliant. “I care because I did.”

It was a brilliant answer at least to me because I could not understand him initially.

He went on to explain himself. “I have been very blessed in my life. I was given all the right ingredients and conditions to be successful. Literally on a plate.”

“All I had to do was to stir it with hard work. It is not right that God blesses me just so that I can have a good life. I need to do something good and make something good with it.”

He concluded by saying, “I believe the world should be fixed.”

The words spoken by different people in my class kept stirring in my heart. I just could not delete them
from my mind.

The discussion revolves around issues that were fundamentals to life and good living. My views about them and how I respond to them are capstones to helping me live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

I care for the poor and needy because I feel for them.
It’s a part of my heart and being.

When I deny it, I deny my humanness.
I gut the soul out of my life.

There are no other reasons for caring and none are needed except for one.

God has beautifully crafted us. He wants us to make something beautiful out of our lives.

So, why do you care? What are you going to do about it?

When you meet somebody in need, put yourself in that person’s shoes.

Can you feel the distress that he is going through?

You should – because somebody helped you in the past.

That’s why if you searched deep in your heart, you would feel that you’ve ‘met’ the person before.

It might not be the person’s fault for being in that position. That person could very well be you.

Just as you hope somebody would help you when you’re in need, you should help that person who’s
in need.

It may not be possible to help everybody in the world.

At that very moment, you can help that person. You can help one more person.

You can stretch out your hands to lift somebody up and out of the pits of life.

It’s both your way of giving back and paying it forward.

Perhaps, that’s why you have what you have today. They are gifts to you so that you can share them with others.

These gifts were given to you to help you and your loved ones to live life.

At the same time, you can use them to bless others and by doing that, you can live a happier and more fulfilled life.

You are wired to do well with your life in order to make something good out it.

When you do good and do it well, the positive feeling that you will enjoy is something that you cannot
buy with any amount of money in the world.

Some of the greatest wealth-creation gurus believe that
giving back is a basic criteria for achieving success.

If you don’t give, you will not leave room for
greater blessings to flow into your life.

All great religions teach you that you need to do good to others.

It’s a way of life and a universally-accepted principle if you want to enjoy a meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling life.

Our Creator designed you to love and care for others. It’s a natural trait and you know and can feel it in your heart.

Giving back is a vital part of your spirit.
It’s an integral part of your being.

When you deny it, you deny your God-given potentials and talents.
You destroy something wonderful inside you.

That’s why I have always said that the worst heart disease is not to have a heart for people and the environment.

In this regard, we may need to have a good ‘heart transplant’ every now and then.

We may need to renew and strengthen our hearts to give back and do good.

There are many lives and things around us that are falling apart.

If we don’t do our part to fix them, they may come back to haunt and affect us.

Governments cannot resolve these problems because politicians are dependent on popular votes.

There are limitations to what they can do and achieve.

Universities and other educational institutions cannot fully address these issues because they are focused primarily on the pursuit of knowledge.

It is not in their charter to implement solutions for social and environmental problems.

Charity bodies have been around for thousands of years. They cannot offer a sustainable solution because they lack talents, money and other resources.

To resolve these challenges, we need a fourth key – every one of us.

All of us can do our part to make our world a better home.

Every person matters.

Every part counts.

Call me an idealist if you like, I believe if you and I live with love, our future generation will point to us
and say,

“That’s the generation that finally got their act of love together.

“They eradicated poverty, brought about world peace, and made our world a better home for all of us.”

Will you be one of the Enlightened Humans?


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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