C harles Whatley: May 4, 2019
Published 1:21 pm Saturday, May 4, 2019
Her name was Hattie Green, and in 1916, she was, depending on who you ask, either the wealthiest woman in America or the wealthiest woman in the world. She bailed out New York City with a check for $1.1 million; it was a loan. She was worth, at her death, somewhere between $100 million and $200 million, or in today’s dollars approximately $17 billion. After her son Edward died and left his inheritance to his sister Sylvia, she, after her death, left it all to charity.
She was “the witch of Wall Street,” because she wore a black dress with a veil (some people said she only had one) and it was dirty and ragged and smelly. When she cleaned it, she only cleaned the hem because “that was the only part that got dirty” and it saved soap. A shopkeeper once told her to stop touching his merchandise with her black, smelly hands. She explained that she’d been pulling used nails out of some burnt lumber to save money and didn’t wash her hands to save soap. When her son broke his leg in an accident, she took him to the free clinic, but left after they told her it would cost $150. The leg later became infected with gangrene and had to be amputated. She ate oatmeal heated on a radiator and died of a stroke caused by an argument over the value of skim milk.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:6-19 NIV)
I applied for a Texaco card during my first year in ministry, but they turned me down. I wrote back that I’d seen “a very large book with the names of people whose income qualified them for a card, but they didn’t pay their bill … I would!” In a few days, I got a nice letter and a Texaco card from a Texaco vice-president.
My dad was fond of asking people, “How much is enough?” Then he’d answer his own question, “More than you have!” And he taught me something most politicians and many economists don’t yet know, “Spend less than you earn!
Charles “Buddy” Whatley is a retired UMC pastor and with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.