It’s 8:31pm on the day after graduation as I’m writing this. Almost everybody has moved out and the house is quiet. The end-of-the-year rush is crazy, but it’s something you get used to. Maybe too used to.
I was just outside throwing away more trash from my room when I saw a man milling around by the garbage can. I didn’t think anything of it until I really looked at him. He was staring at the garbage can like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. I asked him if I could help him and he asked me, “Is all this stuff trash?” I told him it was.
See, every year many Stanford students frantically clean their rooms and inevitably decide that it’s just not worth it to lug a bunch of stuff home. So they throw it away–and “it” is thousands of dollars of stuff, often unopened decorations, electronics, clothes, whatever. Just today, as I was cleaning the house (I’m the RA), I threw away 15 bottles of detergent, new furniture, dozens of food packages, and decorations like you wouldn’t believe. The students know it’s easier to just throw this stuff away instead of shipping or storing it.
I guess this man didn’t think the same way, because as I was loading some more stuff in my car, he was just staring at the stuff and milling around. So I asked him again and he quietly said, “Do you think I could take some of this?” I said sure.
We were both outside for a while, doing our own thing, and then I asked him if I could help him again. He shrugged, so I asked him what was up. Finally, he reluctantly asked me if I could help him by driving him to take some of the stuff to his car.
Huh? My gut response was “no way.” Who would take a random guy in their own car? But then I looked at him. I saw his ABM Janitorial Services shirt, the things he wanted to take (a stereo and a child’s toy, both of which were pretty heavy), and then I did something I’d normally never do: I took him in my car and we drove to the other side of campus.
What are we really doing on this site? Teaching people how to make money with stocks and index funds and budgeting? Learning about money so we can…what? Help “struggling” people who are making $30,000/year as young single professionals live well? Or are we just spreading financial literacy so we can ultimately help more people? Maybe a little bit of each. This guy didn’t have Quicken or a Roth IRA or a money-market account. He lives in East Palo Alto and works 7 days a week. Today he was rummaging through the garbage to get an old stereo and a toy for his daughter. Anyway, after meeting him, it just occurred to me that being rich isn’t only about making money for just ourselves.