E.H. Harriman was as rich as they come. A railroad baron. A captain of industry. Everything his children could possibly want or need, he gave them. Yet unlike some wealthy parents, he coupled this luxury with stern maxims and advice. He wanted his kids to do something with their lives, to make a difference in the world. As he was fond of repeating, “Great wealth is an obligation and responsibility. Money must work for the country.”
We all say things to our kids, just as our parents did. Little bits and bobs of wisdom that we picked up places. We hope they hear us. We hope it gets through.
And when it does? Oh, that is the best.
In 1901, Harriman’s daughter was making her debut in society, as was common then. Unlike her friends, however, she was appalled at the parties and the spectacles people were throwing for themselves. It seemed so wasteful and self-indulgent. So she used her budget to found what would become the Junior League, a volunteerism nonprofit that exists to this day to help the less fortunate. She put her money to work not just for the country but for the world, and in doing so improved countless lives.
We have to remember that as parents we are always planting seeds. A comment here, a book we have them read there. A documentary we watch together, an example we set, a person we introduce them to. When we get them to listen? When they really hear us? Wonderful things can happen.