Friends & Friction: You can lose your soul chasing the money

2015-03-25 15:00

Sometimes a tragedy in one’s life becomes the catalyst to create an elixir the whole world is after. So don’t look at a disaster with pain and self-pity, but as the conduit to immortality.

The story sounds familiar: a father dies, leaving three children behind, the oldest of whom is only six years old.

The mother, who has been a housewife all her adult life, is now forced to find a job, but the world still believes the woman’s place is in the kitchen.

So Mother does sewing for families and later finds a job peeling tomatoes at a canning factory. And, like most live-in maids, she is sometimes gone for days. Her little six-year-old is forced to cook for his younger brother and sister. As he later says: “We knew enough not to burn the house down.”

Five years later, Mother marries a new husband. He does not like stepchildren. Two of the children can’t bear it any more, so they leave home. Little brother is taken in by an aunt.

The oldest boy finds a job on a farm. Life is hard. He gets up before dawn to feed the pigs before shipping them off to become bacon; that an animal is going to feed the human species does not mean it must die hungry.

During the day, the boy has to go to school. In the evenings, he does odd jobs to supplement his salary. In Grade 7, as the work piles up, school cannot compete. He finds the idea of solving for x very confusing.

“I don’t care about x, the unknown,” he says to himself, and then quits school.

At 15, with no school to go to, life is a one-way street.

He quits the farm to become a street-car conductor. He finds that unsatisfying, so joins the army.

He then gets married and has three children.

He works as a fireman. He studies law by correspondence. He sells insurance.

The curriculum vitae of a lost soul is directionless, you may think, but for most people, the road to self-actualisation is long and winding.

He then finds a job running a petrol station. He cooks for his family in the back room and, to make extra cash, starts selling meals to passers-by.

He serves pan-fried chicken. The word spreads with travellers, and that is how KFC is born – the founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, is 65 years old. He dies a multimillionaire, aged 90.

His life was not easy, but hard lessons immortalised him.

Every day, millions of people worldwide, but especially South Africans, queue up to enjoy his chicken. His success was not in chasing money. As he said: “Money is a reward for the virtuous.”

The colonel used to say he dreamt of a fried chicken so golden and delicious it would make a grown man cry.

The world has lost that kind of passion. Everyone wants to be an instant millionaire. In the past, wealth was a private thing, a well-kept secret between the owner and banker. These days it is splashed in the newspapers.

If we want the legacy of black economic empowerment to continue, we must rekindle the passion of our young people and make sure their dreams are bigger than being the richest person on the planet.

No one cared what Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or Winston Churchill’s bank balances were.

It is not how much money you make in your business that matters, but how many people’s lives you touch.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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