Hetty Green (1834 – 1916) was born into a wealthy family. She grew her already sizeable wealth through her business acumen and further inheritances. At the turn of the 20th century, she became one of America’s richest people. Despite her considerable wealth, the Guinness Book of World Records named her as the ‘greatest miser’.
She’d eat cold oatmeal and used cold water because it was too costly to heat it up. She was fixated with making money despite her wealth. She would not seek medical attention for herself or her children because of the cost. Her son had to have his leg amputated because she was looking for a ‘free’ clinic. She died from a ruptured blood vessel in the brain while arguing about the benefits of skimmed milk!
Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818 – 1891) on the other hand was born a slave. In 1840, 30 year old Mason along with her three daughters (10, 4, infant) and other slaves walked 2700kms to Salt Lake City behind her owner’s 300 wagon caravan so he could establish a new Mormon settlement. Eleven years later they did the same thing in San Bernardino, California where slavery was illegal.
After several years there, Mason successfully petitioned for freedom, for herself and her extended family of 13 women and children with the help of local black and white abolitionists. She then moved her family to Los Angeles where she worked as a mid-wife, nurse and domestic servant. She used her savings to purchase a house in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, making her one of the first black women to own land in LA. She even turned part of her land into the first ‘parking lot’ for visitors to park their horses and carriages.
She quickly opened her home to the poor, hungry and homeless. Through hard work, savings and wise investments, she used her wealth to build schools, hospitals and churches, including founding the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
What an extraordinary contrast between the two women! One was blessed and kept wanting more. The other was dealt a bad hand in life but she did not allow that to define her because she knew who she was on the inside. As her fortunes turned around, Mason wasted no time being a blessing to others.
Our lives are not unlike Mason’s. The book of Ephesians reminds us that though we were once ‘slaves’, in Christ we’ve been gifted freedom and blessed with every spiritual blessing so that we might do the works God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:9b).
As we see out the year, may our lives continue to be fruitful for His glory!