Money Isn’t the Only Resource

By Lydia Cleaver-Bartholomew


When we talk about “the poor” we almost always talk about people who are lacking in one specific resource—money.  In fact we oftentimes see classifications based on income as one of the primary divisions within society, for example, our tax brackets or developed versus developing countries.  It’s easy to understand why; after all, money is tangible and wealth easily quantified and measured.  Is money truly the only resource that matters, however?

The obvious answer seems to be “no”, but then why is it that so many of us automatically feel pity for those with fewer economic resources than ourselves?  While money is certainly important, crucial even, it is not the only resource we as human beings have.  We have the love and support of our family and friends.  We have our skills, both with our hands and our minds.  We have our time, our autonomy, and our voice.  We have our passions.  We have our faith.  We have our dignity.  

It’s not that money isn’t important, but by focusing on monetary resources to the exclusion of all else we create a false hierarchy among individuals and groups.  

It is easy to look at “the poor”, as I often have, as having categorically worse lives than the rest of us.  After all, what about not having air conditioning on a 90° day could possibly be appealing?  But before we jump to conclusions, we must take an inventory of ourselves.  

After visiting some of the Human Connections partners, I could only marvel at the kind of deep connection each one felt for his or her heritage, the skills they had to make beautiful objects with their hands, and the love and devotion the couples had for their lifelong partners.  Far from galvanizing my sense of pity, this experience has made me realize that the Human Connections artisans and many others like them have a variety of resources that I lack.  

I am richer than them in one sense, but they are far richer than me in others.  

By recognizing these differences, it is possible to exchange our very different resources, for both of us to become richer.  This is not traditional charity where I give my time and money and get the feeling of having done something good.  This is a mutually beneficial interaction where we both come away with a little bit more of the resources that we lack.  We are equals. Viewing the world simply as an income scale removes the nuance and insight that makes the human experience what it is.  Money is important, but it’s not the only resource.

Photo credit: Kiersten Rowland from Prema Photographic