I don’t know many super-rich people. Where I grew up, if you had a house, a car, and a job, you were better off than most. Come to think of it, that still holds true today.
Occasionally, I would hear whispers: “That guy over there is a millionaire.” It was usually said about someone who owned a lot of land. The concept of anyone I anyone I knew ever becoming a millionaire seemed outrageous. Back then, a “thousand-aire” seemed to be a more realistic goal.
Of course, a million dollars today isn’t what it used to be. In 1985, there were about 800,000 millionaires in the United States. Today there are more than 12 million, many of whom have crossed the golden threshold since the recession ended about ten years ago.
The rest of us fantasize about winning the lottery. “If I ever win that Powerball,” we say, “I’d take care of my family, and the rest would go to charity.” Most of us will never be able to deliver on that promise, but hopefully some winners actually do.
After last week’s tornado outbreak in middle Tennessee, our region’s trademark generosity was in full force. Folks drove hundreds of miles to help clear debris, deliver necessities, and comfort victims.
One donation stood out. Singer Taylor Swift donated a million dollars to the relief efforts. This was reported on the news, and soon landed on social media. This is where it gets interesting, and stomach-turning.
You see, my sweet mother tried to teach me to be a good person. I have never quite lived up to her very realistic expectations, but it’s not for lack of trying. I am flawed, as are all of us. However, since she was my moral compass for the first half-century of my life, surely something rubbed off on me.
There’s no telling how many times she said, “Son, if you can’t say something nice about someone, just don’t say anything at all.”
Those are solid words to live by, but not everyone had a momma like mine. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are heavily populated by people who rarely say anything nice. They were ready to pounce when Ms. Swift made her million dollar donation.
Said one man, “Her giving a million is like me giving $1.25. She only did it for the publicity, she knows it will translate to millions in sales.”
Another chimed in, “If I lost everything I had, and she tried to give me a check for a million dollars, I’d tell her to keep it. She’s just doing this for attention.”
One woman quoted another country star, saying “That don’t impress me much. What’s the big deal, she’s got so many more millions just lying around.”
Others slammed the singer for her choices in clothing, complained that she has “forsaken country music,” and criticized her political preferences. “Take your liberal money somewhere else,” wrote one Facebook critic.
So to review, a celebrity gave a million dollars to help total strangers who had just lost loved ones and all their possessions. Some people reacted by taking time out of their day to insult the donor on a public forum.
Certainly, many others reacted positively, and quite a few came to her defense. As they rightly pointed out, “No one made her do this.” Even some who admitted they are not among her fans wrote, “I don’t care for her music, but at least she’s trying to help.” And there was this: “It’s none of my business if she’s doing it for publicity. People who are trying to rebuild don’t care where the money’s coming from. They just need help!”
Personally, I’m not passionate one way or the other about Taylor Swift’s wardrobe, music, lifestyle, or politics. I am, however very impressed by her giving heart. You can find numerous stories about her visits to sick children, some of whom expressed their dying wish was to meet the singer. Yes, some of these are publicized, often by family members who wish to acknowledge Taylor’s kindness. But many are not, and have become known long after they took place.
Superstar entertainers can stay in their protective cocoons, emerging only for lucrative concerts and awards shows. Many of them do just that. Taylor Swift’s million dollar donation to Tennessee’s tornado victims was not her first act of kindness, and surely won’t be her last. As some of her detractors pointed out, she does indeed have “millions more dollars.” She often exercises her right to share her fortune with others.
If she chooses to help those in need, we can react with negativity, or we can applaud her kind gesture.
This column has given me a chance to say something nice about her. I believe my mother would approve.