But many of the wealthy do not fit this description. Indeed, some rich folks believe that the best purpose for their wealth is to do good for others.
Here is such a story, most fitting for Christmas Eve. If any man captures the spirit of Christmas, it must be Donald Denihan.
Donald Denihan, a 51-year-old businessman from Massapequa, N.Y.wanted to see the devastation firsthand. And he wanted to help one family rebuild. He would pay for everything, from demolition costs to new paint. He just wanted to make sure he found the right family, perhaps someone elderly, perhaps someone with a disability.
Over the phone, he asked Beckmann: “Will you help me choose?”
The priest’s heart sank. There were thousands of families in need, people who had lost everything. How in the world could he pick just one?
A few days later, Beckmann and Sister Diane Morgan gave Denihan a tour of their battered barrier-island town off the south shore of Long Island. They took him to the West End, a warren of narrow streets named after the states — Arizona, Ohio, Michigan — and crammed with small homes, many of them passed down from generation to generation. The neighborhood is staunchly working-class; police officers and firefighters and teachers live here, many of them of Irish and Italian descent.
Now, it was a disaster zone. Nearly every home had been flooded. Possessions — kitchen stoves and plasterboard, children’s toys and mattresses — spilled out of trash bins that lined the streets.
Beckmann drove Denihan to 103 Minnesota Ave., a small raised ranch with a wheelchair ramp at the side. The priest told him about the family who lived there, the Troys, how they had evacuated to Connecticut mainly because of their sick son, how Kerry Ann’s childhood home around the corner, newly rebuilt after burning to the ground six years earlier, had been lost to the flood.
Then he took Denihan to another ruined house, the tiny bungalow where the church’s 74-year-old cook had climbed a 7-foot ladder into the attic to escape the rising water. All she could do was pray as she watched her disabled son nearly drown in his wheelchair below.
Both families were in urgent need of help, Beckmann said. Which one would Denihan choose?
Denihan listened intently.
After surviving three near-death experiences — a duck-shooting accident at 16, prostate cancer at 36 and a serious boating accident in 2011 — he had concluded that there was a reason God wanted him around.
And so Denihan, who had made his money in hotel and real-estate investments, had set up a fund. He called it God is Good. Until now, he wasn’t sure how he would use it.
“I can’t choose, Father,” Denihan said as they drove back to the church. “I’ll just have to take care of both.”