I Want To Change
I am reading a book by a popular author and speaker about what she did after realizing she was super wealthy and that others were poor. It doesn’t matter which book or which author because I am probably just not getting her message, but I can’t stop thinking about WHY I’m not getting the book’s point. I’m afraid that my perspective clouds my opinion and might be keeping me from seeing the message she is trying to teach, which reminds me of 2 Corinthians 9: 6 – 9, a passage from the Bible, which talks about being a cheerful giver.
I only started reading the book yesterday, but it alredy has me thinking about my hangups. For one thing, I am having trouble feeling like the author is going far enough to convince me that she really gets the plight of the poor. Maybe it’s because I did not grow up wealthy, or rich, or even middle class. Not that those things are wrong.
What a blessing it would have been for my parents to have had a nicer home for my mom to plant her flowers around, but that’s not how our life was, and strangely, I am glad. I doubt I would have ever imagined being glad when I wanted a pair of Guess jeans and my parents said it was never going to happen, but now that I’m grown, I am grateful for the perspective I now have.
I am grateful for the home I grew up in that was small in every way because it was as much as we could afford. In the halls we had to turn sideways to pass, especially when we got older, so that we could not pass each other without a hug or a pat on the shoulder in greeting. Our kitchen was tiny, as well. We had to crowd around it during meals and if we had company we spilled into the living room. We still do when we visit, and I never, while eating my meal, think, “I wish this kitchen were bigger.” Granted, my Mom who did most of the cooking probably wished for more counter space, but she always used the kitchen table for preparing meals, making cookies, and rolling pie dough. It was easy to reach. If you were at the stove, all you had to do was turn around and there was the table, or reach up and there were the cabinets that were sometimes sparse, but never so empty that she couldn’t spare a few cans for a hungry person in our community.
When I think about it, I guess that if the author of the book I’m reading had met my family, she might have been moved by our financial status (after her epiphany that is), but the funny thing is, my mom would have seen herself at the same level as the author; just someone else who needed to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it is more noble to be low-income than it is to be wealthy. You don’t think that if I ever have a New York Times bestselling novel that I wouldn’t buy my parents a new house? All I’m saying is that, for me, I don’t need to get lost in wealth to suddenly look around and see that many are poor. I have seen empty cabinets. I have darned socks. And my mom, bless her, never said we were poor and she would tell you now that we weren’t, because we had enough and there was always someone who had it much worse than us. Those people were truly poor and needed our help. And it’s that lesson that stayed with me.
If anything, based on my upbringing and the lessons my parents taught me, I have less of an excuse than some others. For example, I love my mochas, but I haven’t always been able to afford them anyway, so would I really miss them that much? Probably not. And yet, that might be a struggle for someone else. For me, it would take more than a mocha, but the truth is, I can’t look at this wealthy author as I read her book and be so unimpressed, without looking at myself and still be unimpressed. How far am I willing to go?
Maybe, it’s all relative to our experience. Since I’ve lived with less income without it being my choice, do I think I don’t have to go very far to be grateful and find something to give away? Am I so attached to my easier way of life? Could I go back?
The truth is, it is hard to give things up when you have lived without them for a long time, but I should probably be looking at it another way. Because of my own experiences, I have gained some perspective in my life based on never having been wealthy in the first place, having been – or at least felt – poor, and known people who really are “dirt poor” as some people would say.
Therefore, I am going to have to try harder to show my gratitude and give of myself the way I believe God wants me to, because I already know.
Like I said, I want to change.
Tina Ann Forkner
Author of Ruby Among Us and Rose House