Greed: Not just for the rich

I’m going to talk about some of the good and some of the bad in our country. First of all I would like to congratulate Dr. Robert Heichberger on his last column. I grinned from ear to ear as I read it. I had to call him up and tell him that for years I have prayed for knowledge, the ability to turn that knowledge into wisdom and the courage to act on that wisdom. And of course, I’ve emphasized humility. It’s so hard when in this country we always want to be number one, which is pride. We have to be happy we are caring, doing people, but not prideful. There’s a difference. I had to call him and tell him how much I enjoyed what he had to say. I believe there’s a place for both of us because I write simple to reach the grass roots people and he writes with his college background and can reach many more people. It’s great that there’s a place for everyone.

And then there’s Richard Westlund. He has such a positive attitude! His column on Tuesday was all about how Chautauqua County is blessed by nature. We have minimal natural disasters. As for all the snow we get, that’s a blessing. Just think of all the skiers and snowmobilers we usually get. That’s big business! We don’t get tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires or the kind of floods that wipe out whole towns and villages. Really, if you have family in this area or if you are a baby boomer, you should have a home in a warm place like Florida for the winter and come here for the summer. You could have it made! We need you in our group that wants to develop the area.

Now let’s take a look at our history. I grew up in a socially conscious household. My brother Roddy was one of the men who started the steel plant union. At that time the workers were working for peanuts. They needed some clout, so they organized and they asked for more and more. Where are the plants now? Did you know the monied people took their money and built a steel plant with all the latest equipment in Switzerland? We couldn’t compete with them. In the meantime our plants had gotten run down. Let’s not forget that greed is not only the disease of the rich! Let’s be aware of the danger it poses to all of us.

For the longest time, the doctors’ union was the strongest union in the country. I don’t hear as much about them anymore. I have no idea what they’re doing now.

I worry about the teachers’ union. When I was growing up, my sister Louise was a teacher. Her job kept us eating. Then Roddy helped. As time went on my brother Tony became a teacher and then a principal. Roddy was making more money than Tony. But Tony wasn’t in it for the money. He loved the kids. He would stand by the door every morning and greet each student by name.

I wonder how many of you think I got rich in my beauty salon. We had a friend who was sure my husband and I were millionaires. Now for the truth. We were the first to give our operators 60 percent of what they took in. We paid all of our expenses out of the 40 percent that was left over. Then when Russ died I gave each of the ladies an inheritance check. We were family. So you see, we put our money where our mouths were.

I have some ideas on how we can pay for our education systems. Some of you aren’t going to like them, but in my opinion, they’re practical ideas. I don’t think it’s fair that only property owners pay school taxes. In the old days, owning property was a sign of wealth, but that’s not true anymore. Some people who rent say, “The landlords raise our rent to pay their property taxes.” But not all property owners are landlords. Now, I think all people who have children in school should pay something. Make it fair for those who have large families. Then there are those of us who don’t have property or children in school. Couldn’t there be a voluntary contribution that some of us could elect to give? I’d be willing to give. I’d hate to think of what our society would be like without the schools.

Now for our administration and teachers. What would you be willing to give up, temporarily, for the good of the education system?

I have a friend who used to work for the school union. He said they had to ask for something each year, or the teachers would ask “What are you doing for us?”

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, do we see people who are part of the solution or part of the problem? Greed is not just the plague of the rich. We can all suffer from it. We all have so much to be thankful for. Let’s share! Give and love yourselves.

I just want to add the name of our group’s new secretary. Her name is Beth Benchley of Forestville. She volunteered, and we are so grateful that she did. In Beth, we not only got a secretary, but someone to give us information about what’s going on in Forestville. So, thank you, Beth! And thank you to all of the other volunteers who give so freely of their time and resources to our community!

Margaret Valone is a Fredonia resident. Comments may be sent to