Recently an old man, over eighty years of age, lay on his death-bed. He could no longer
keep possession of the wealth he had accumulated. In a few hours, he must leave it to
the world from which he had taken it and kept it so many years. He had not been a
generous man. He had loved money. He loved to get it and loved to keep it, and if he
could have carried his wealth with him, going with that unknown guide, Death, there
is no doubt but that he would have done so.
He had given nothing to the world while he lived, and he would not have given
anything when he died, only that he was obliged to do so. This is the only charity of a
great many people.
When death comes, then the hand of avarice must open. Nothing can be carried
through the grave. So, the old man must at last release his hold upon his gains. He
must leave his beloved dollars to somebody.
He had gathered them for himself, not for others. He had thought only of himself when
he gathered them, and now, when he was to part with them, he did not know what
disposition to make of them. The lawyer was present at his bedside; the minister was
also with him. The will had been drawn. He had bequeathed certain sums to public
charities and remembered the church. Life was almost gone. He hesitated yet to give
up the control of his money to others. The pen was placed in his dying fingers for him
to affix his name to the will. But he had waited too long. He died with the name
unwritten, the pen unused in his dead hand.
Involuntarily did he part with a cent of his fortune. His millions will now be divided
by the law. Is there, in the bare possession of money, the happiness that men desire? that men
dream of, that men want? Is money the highest goal of human effort? the crown of
human endeavour? Is this money, the insignia of fortune, the true sign of good fortune?
We believe not.
The man who works for this (money) and nothing else, is the slave of
avarice; as hard, as cruel and as merciless as a tyrant as ever cursed the earth.
Let every man strive for independence. Let man be rewarded well for his labor. Let
every hand keep busy, but let there be a desire higher than money, a dream nobler
than of gain, a want above the possession of riches.
There is a better charity than that unwilling gift which death compels us to make; it is
to help the world while we live. There are two ways of doing this: by giving back a
part of what we take, — that is one way and a good way – secondly, by taking less from
others, that is another way and a better way.
Thousands are poor that one may be rich. Thousands toil that one may live in idleness.
Thousands are in want that one may live in luxury. Thousands have not a dollar that
one may have millions. This is not right, not fair, not just. Men must take less while
they go through life.
It is not enough that a man on his deathbed give a college a million, a public library a
million, a public park a million. He should have no millions to give. He should live a
more just life and help others by trying to get less for himself. The public bequest is
the popular atonement for large fortunes, but such atonement does not efface the
sufferings of poverty and want they entail.
We say to the rich, do not wait until you die before you try to help your fellow-men.
Help them while you are living. When a man has made money, he should make a noble
use of it, or he wrongs himself and the world.
Submitted by Nneka Jibeobi for Diary of a Naija Girl