Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rich man, poor man

Many of you may know that I send my son to a Catholic high school. I went to the public high school in the town we live in. When we moved back here the summer before my son started kindergarten, I vowed that he would never end up there. In addition, I moved around a lot as a kid. If you know what it is like to be the new kid every couple of years, you will understand why I had an aversion to putting my child through that.

I enrolled him in a Catholic grammer school so the transition at high school wouldn't be so difficult, and also so that he would have the stability of knowing the same group of kids from kindergarten through 8th grade, no matter if or where we moved. Not to mention, this school was just academically better than most of the other public schools in our town.

I had a lot of help, financially, or I never would have been able to do it. And, I've had a lot of help getting him into this high school. After he was accepted, I received a letter letting me know that almost 2/3 of his tuition was going to be paid by a scholarship. I still have to pay for the rest of the tuition, and uniforms and books, but we make do.

One of his books was given to him on a "town-loan" program. He doesn't always have 5 shirts and 5 pairs of pants that fit him, but he does laundry mid-week. The beauty of the uniform system is that every one looks the same, except the guys get to pick out their own ties. And my son has excellent taste in ties. Tar-Jay had a sale last weekend and we picked up 2 100% silk ties for less than $18.00. I think I'm going off course here, so let me reel it in.

After Christmas, my son told me that he was talking to some friends and they had gotten better/nicer versions of their electronics for Christmas. One of his friends had gotten a 16gb IPod touch to upgrade their 8gb one. When he asked his friend what he was going to do with the old one, his friend said it was just laying around in a drawer. My son offerred him 10 bucks for it, and the friend agreed. I just couldn't wrap my mind around that. I asked my son what his parents thought about that, how could they just let him sell such an expensive gadget for $10? My son explained to me that many kids at the school have wealthy parents who just don't think the same way as I do about things. As I could not have ever afforded to give my kid an IPod touch, I was amazed.

Then my son proceeded to tell me that he had also asked around and rounded up some unused cell phones after his friends got upgraded over the holidays. Some he got for free, some he paid $5 for. He sold them to and they put $129.00 in his PayPal account. I was flabbergasted! Who lets their kids just sell stuff they paid good money for? And, was my kid robbing people blind or just showing an entrapeneuliar spirit and his Jewish grandmother's gift of making money?

I have to admit that I didn't understand when my son told me that not all, but many of his classmates parent's are "wealthy". When I think wealthy, I think - okay, your family may be making four times what ours does, but you also have 3 kids. Of those 3 kids, one may be in college and the other 2 are coming up for it. It all evens out in the wash, right?

I've always tried to instill in my son the difference between right and wrong; and the difference between what we need to survive and excess. We never go hungry, we always have clothes to wear, we have a roof over our heads, and most of the time we have electricity, heat, and hot water. In addition, we have cable television, and internet access. We even have air conditioning in the summer. We are doing much better than about 75% of the population on this planet. We are actually incredibly lucky to be living in a country where people take this for granted.

I have a hard time thinking about taking advantage of people, no matter what their circumstances. It worried me that I thought my son was taking advantage of his classmates. I knew in advance that one of my son's fellow members of the football team, just one grade ahead, was the son of the head coach of UCONN football. When I heard this morning that he was the second highest paid state employee at 1.4 million, I stopped feeling guilty...


Scope said...

Your son is not robbing them. He's right, they will just toss it in a drawer or a basket where it will sit unused and then pitched in the trash (not even recycled) later.

Your son sounds like a good kid who has a good head on his shoulders. He could probably start a reasonable e-Bay company reselling the stuff. (He puts in the time and effort and cuts the kids in on some of the profit.)

There was a kid at my school that put himself through a private college mostly by collecting cans. He went into business school. Don't know what he's doing now, but I can promise you he'll never be hungry.

Fancy Schmancy said...

I'm hoping the boy can manage to put himself through college with this inventive spirit! Just getting him through high school might be the death of me!

MelO said...

Your son sounds BRILLIANT!!! I loved having rich girlfriends while I was growing up... they would always 'donate' their clothes to MOI! :)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I send my kids to a Catholic school, but I can't afford it anymore, so they'll be in--fortunately--one of the sort of decent-ish grade schools next fall.

And, you shouldn't worry about your son taking advantage of others. He's not. For some of these people, money isn't a worry at all and they could care less what happens to the old, discarded electronics. They're probably actually happy that their kids could help your son out. Please don't take that to be as derogatory and elitist as it sounds.

Hopefully, things will change for us and they can go back to the school. Apparently, there's lot of space because other families can't afford the tuition next year, either (we got a scholarship for 0.2% to "help" this past fall), so there's lots of spaces available. Too bad, too, because it is a decent little school.

Naomi said...

I don't think your son is robbing anyone of anything...I think he's a smart, industrious young man smart enough to appreciate the value of material things. He's an entrepreneur!

Although, with things they way they are today, it's sad that those parents and their kids haven't gotten the message that you can wake up one morning with nothing, so don't take it for granted.

Anne's Friend said...

sounds like you have a super smart and great kid!

Fancy Schmancy said...

Melo, I think he's pretty cool, too!

MJenks, I could never do it with more than one kid, either. I'm sure your kids will be fine, the public high school in my town has metal detectors and armed security guards. And, I hadn't thought about the charitable aspect of the kids giving the boy stuff, but it certainly is what they teach them at school!

Naomi, thanks, and I agree. If that coach looses his job tomorrow, he's not going to find another 1.4 million paycheck just anywhere! He's actually pretty smart to send his kid to this school, when he could be going to a $50,000 a year private boarding school in Litchfield County. One with a decent football team, no less! Ours sucks!

Anne, thanks! If only he'd put as much effort into his schoolwork as he does into scamming his classmates!

Gwen said...

I sold snacks out of my locker in high school to make extra spending money. Our campus was closed and back in the stone ages we didn't have vending machines.

(And when I say snacks, I really mean snacks, not drugs.)

Sounds to me like he has the same entrepreneurial spirit, but has a much more profitable product to (re)sell!

Sass said...

He sounds like the kind of kid who will definitely know how to make it in life. He sounds so smart, enterprising, and has an entrepreneurial spirit! Cheers to him!

Candy's daily Dandy said...

That was a great post Fance and your son sounds smart.
Scope is right. I would say that if my kids had unused electronics, nothing would give me more pleasure than to see them go to someone who would appreciate them.

There is a two-fold lesson in there somewhere. Paying it forward and back.

Sounds like you are doing a fine job raising a man.

JoJo said...

Your son was very clever to ask around for those unused electronics. You should be very proud of yourself for raising such a good kid.