It’s no secret that people with money tend to attract people without money.
There becomes a certain social expectation that when the bill arrives, and never
mind if it’s for a toll on a shared trip or an expensive dinner with several courses,
the wealthy or sometimes simply perceived wealthy person will pay.
Oh, there will be pretenses, of course. That awkward pause when the bill is
left lying on the table, an orphan, connected to no one. The person with less money
will then engage in a covert game of chicken. The experienced filcher may feign a
small movement toward a pocket or even fake attempt to make a swipe at the bill.
This is usually followed by an expectant pause when the person with means is
meant to play his or her role by dutifully assuring the other/s that their libations or
food or whatever will be quietly handled by the shiny credit card dislodged from an
expensive leather wallet. Exhales all around.
And this is all fine and good if the affluent person wants to cover the tab in
perpetuity. There is a certain power there. It can be an elegant flex to cover the bill
for a table of less-thans. But at what point does the expectation begin to feel like an
obligation? Or worse, a requirement? And when the table is full of the usual
suspects, those who go in with no pretense that they will share in the cost, well,
enter resentment. Some, who don’t expect to pay, can be quite bold, ordering two or
three drinks, a plate of appetizers, usually, some kind of market price seafood.
Takers, it seems, hold their own brand of power.
And the takers gobble up more than the blue cheese stuffed olive inside the
top shelf martini. Takers are needy. They need attention, advice, and then some
more attention. The wealthy people who are also generous will find their dance
cards full of needy takers. It’s some sort of diseased law of attraction.
So what’s to be done? Certainly, the world needs philanthropy. But is the
affluent person required to meet the needs of the animal hospitals, the domestic
abuse shelters and the club fees for a tag-along buddy on the golf course?
The answer is no. Of course not. Generous people, even those without wealth,
must learn to budget their resources, including emotional expenditures. Good
takers, the one that end up living in the spare bedroom for six months, for example,
understand the balance between ingratiating and demanding. They are skilled
craftsman, tugging on the sympathy thread with such delicacy that the garment of
charity is nearly threadbare before it is even noticed.
So what’s to be done? Bighearted people enjoy sharing. They love the
endorphin rush of rescuing. So maybe that’s the place to start. It’s not necessary to
sweep the takers away in some bold gesture. They will fall away on their own once
they learn that the pocketbook or the always-available listening ear, hold
boundaries. And these boundaries are built each time the giver remembers his or
her own worth. They must understand the movie they star in and surround
themselves with a supporting cast of co-creators. Stephen King famously said that
when examining a story with the characters in mind, one must be brutal. “Anything
that isn’t the story, delete. You must kill your darlings.” A close examination of a
generous life will reveal characters who take without giving. They must be deleted
from future scenes. They will be easy to find, as they will appear in any life scene
where they hope to gain something. The cast of people required for an enriching and
fulfilling life will give in equal measure to their take. Karl Marx, when explaining
robust social exchanges said people must “take according to their need and give
according to their ability.” The cherished people in life are the ones who cherish
back. Charitable people must learn the lesson that saying “no” is sometimes more of
a gift than pulling out the credit card. The expert takers will unhook their tentacles
and slink away to find another source of nourishment leaving the kind-hearted
person resources to give in such a way where there are bountiful returns.