Poverty is a Mindset

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I spent 9 years of my life as a minister of religion. It taught me a lot of things.

The lesson about wealth is the one I want to share.

We had a sub-economical housing scheme in the congregation. To live there, your income must be below a very low set level. In other words, it was a housing project for low income people. I purposely do not use the expression “poor people,” and you will see why in a moment. The point is, to live in this housing scheme, your income had to be very low. The stories are true – I was there.

Story 1:

During a house call, an elderly lady told me she is so glad that her son finally got employment and at a good salary, too. She showed me the pay slip. I felt guilty, because it was less than my monthly fuel bill. Then her son came in. I asked him about his new job as petrol pump attendant. He told me it is a wonderful job and he loves it.

I ask him why he loves it, thinking he will say something like “I like serving people.” Not so. He loved the job because it allowed him to sit in the sun most of the day. I kid you not.

Story 2:

There was an elderly couple who had two gardens one on either side of the path from the gate. One side flowers, the other side vegetables. When the flowers were blooming, they always sent some for my wife. The house was neat and clean. They were friendly and upright. I could never leave without a cup of tea. It never seemed like they lack anything.

Story 3:

Mother. son and grandson. The son had a relatively good job and therefore a relatively good income. Definitely better than Story 1. They live 4 houses down from Story 2. When you entered the gate, it looked as if the gophers lived there. Just holes and sand heaps. Old broken tricycles and other rubbish. Inside it was dark and dirty. Cockroaches running over my legs while we talk. I always refused tea. BUT they had the fanciest TV and hi-fi set. Always made me think about something I think Robert Kiyosaki wrote. I think he said his tenants can afford much better TV’s than he can.

Story 4:

We have an elderly widow lady in the congregation. She lives in a big house with a big erf. She cannot keep the land clean. And finding somebody to do it is not something she wants to do at her age. I think I might be able to help.

There is an unemployed man in the housing scheme. I go to him and tell him I will give the seed and tools. If he cultivates the erf and plants the seeds, he can sell it and earn some money. He is very enthusiastic and we drive there so he can see what it is all about.

I provide tools, I buy seed and I meet him there. He starts preparing the ground and I go on with my work. Later the day I drop by to see what is happening. Tools gone, seed gone, unemployed man gone. When I catch up with him he sold the tools and seed. “It is too much work.”

Story 5:

My wife and I drive down a street leading towards the housing scheme and I see two women walking with bags. I recognize them as congregants and offer them a lift. My wife asks where they are coming from. They reply that they have been to the “welfare” for food and clothes. They offer the details. They did not feel like working any more and resigned. Now they walk to the welfare when they need something and sit at home. “A much better life.”


My conclusion, which has been confirmed over the years, are that wealth and poverty has got nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with attitude and mindset.

Even qualifying to live there, the people in Story 2 were much wealthier than their neighbors. Attitude and mindset made the difference. Even being much older than my friend in Story 4, he did not mind working his garden. They had a pride that was obviously lacking in the people of my other stories.

There is a lack of ambition. Imagine that the best part of a job is to get paid to sit in the sun! Or the audacity to steal the reverend’s tools and seed! To even admit that it is too much work. Imagine resigning from a job to live off welfare and to boast about it!

Another thing that a lot of these people had in common, was that the houses were dirty (too lazy to clean?) and they rarely opened the curtains for light to come in. There is probably a lot of psychological and sociologic reasons for this. But what I describe is a common denominator!

Lastly, these people all (except story 2!) tend to be victims. There was always a story about why they are where they are. Somebody was an alcoholic. A father left. A boss treated them unfairly. They wanted to do something, but then somebody else treated them in the wrong way. Once they tried to do something, but then somebody laughed at them and they gave up. Always somebody else is to blame. Even if it happened decades ago.

They just never could see that the their own choices brought them where they are. They would blame things, circumstances and people for events that happened way back in the past for their current situation. If you are a victim, you are powerless. Being a victim exonerates you. It also enslaves.

When I heard this quote by Jack Ma of Alibaba, it brought back all these memories – and I sat myself down to have a talk with myself to make sure that I am not one of those that Jack Ma speak of!

What do YOU think? Please share your thoughts.



You will do well to read this post as well – it ads very good insights.

Jack Ma: Lack of Money, Poor People and Procrastination

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