“If you could be rich, Mommy, would you? I mean, if you could? Let’s say you wanted to be able to buy somebody something they really wanted and you could get the money to do that, would you?” Seven-year old questions…and by that I mean asked by a seven-year old, but questions nonetheless that date well before her time. Ahhhhhh, what questions at that, and as a mom, I do my very best to answer truthfully, no matter what the consequence. I’ll get to my answer in a minute.
Yahoo News Headline today, April 28, 2011: Tornadoes devastate South, killing at least 281. I cannot imagine this type of devastation. What about Japan…Haiti…Louisiana…the list is long. To even empathize is difficult, but to feel sorrow and helplessness isn’t. I find that I am terrifically bothered by detachment that occurs when tragedies strike that are not on one’s own turf. I am of the mindset that we live in a world economy: everything is entangled and touched by the other. Clear across the ocean actions of others are affecting us right here in the good ol’ USA and vice versa. However, resources are not equal on these grounds. Access to resources is also not equally distributed. Therefore, when you suffer, ultimately in one way or another, I also suffer. Why am I talking about this? What a stinking, boring blog!
I mention these philosophies because they feed into my “rich” answer. As I’ve struggled with my own stuff over the years, but more so in the last decade, I’ve increased my ability to walk in another’s shoes. Instead of keeping cushy Reeboks on, I adorn a tattered pair of Keds, hand-me-downed three times with a hole in each big toe. When I walk in another’s shoes I meet Empathy. When I meet Empathy, I find that what I have is quite enough, and to have much more would be abundance, and to have abundance would be to take away from someone who has less. Tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, starvation, illness, hate, old age–all these things cause suffering. Sharing our wealth lessens the effect. Can you imagine if all of the financially rich people of the world only kept what they really needed to live comfortably instead of extravagantly? I would love to read this Yahoo Headline: Kobe Bryant Gives $20 Mil Away to Those In Need. (Love you, Kobe, just an example.) And, even better would be if there was a GREAT DIVIDER that equally passed around the excess so that all people had the same opportunities. Call me ideal…go ahead….call me ignorant…call me whatever you like…you can even call me period.
“Honey, no, I wouldn’t want to be rich like that. Yes, I would like to have enough money to be able to buy someone something they really wanted for, let’s say, his/her birthday, or to help someone in need without having to worry about it.” She persisted, “But if you COULD be rich, WOULD you want to be?” “No, honey, I wouldn’t. If I had a large amount of money that I didn’t need, I’d just end up giving it away to someone who did.” My answer. She didn’t fully understand, but she did soak it up a little. I’ve preached this way of life to her from the beginning, but for heaven’s sake, she’s still seven; she wants toys-LOTS OF TOYS-she wants to have a “magical house” someday. She wants to have twenty dogs on a farm, and she’ll let me clean the poop. She wishes everything was free (me too). Maycee has dreams as most certainly she should. And, while she falls prey to the messages of media that tell her to want MORE, MORE, MORE! she is learning how to give.
Last year for the chapel service at her school one Friday she gave her entire piggy bank’s worth of money to the church, around $18 at the time, all under her own volition. “Maycee, are you sure you want to give all of that to chapel?” “Ya. I’m going to make more as I get older anyways, and God can use this.” Two weeks ago during the KLOVE pledge drive she kept getting on me to sign up and pledge since we listen to the life changing radio station every single day. So, on the drive down south to meet her dad for his visit weekend, I pulled over, dialed the number, and gave. When I’ve spoken one too many words about needing to wait for payday to buy something, she’s offered: Mommy, you can use some of my money. (Then I remember to keep my money issues to myself.) But, she’s testing out my shoes, and it helps us to get through the tough days.
Nobody is handing out $1 Million Dollar Bills that I’m aware of, so I truly cannot say what I would do if I had green Ben Franklins coming out of my ears. However, wearing someone else’s shoes helps me, once again, ascertain the state of affairs. I do not live in Alabama. My house has not been blown apart and everything dear to me lost. I am not threatened at this hour by nuclear power sickening my body with radiation. The sources of water I have are safe to drink. Another’s shoes show me that my Dollar Store loaf of bread is way better than no bread at all, and it only cost me a dollar. Another’s shoes show me that to be “rich” has many meanings.
Merriam-Webster’s Definition of RICH:
1. having abundant possessions and especially material wealth.