Friday, December 10, 2010

Needle's Eye

Issue 6 of CONSP!RE magazine deals with the economy of God.

One article in particular caught my attention. A family who lives in India realizes that most of the friends they have live on about $2.20 per day. Inspired by their seven-year-old, they embarked on the challenge to live on just $110 for the month, which was very low for them and still 50 times more than their neighbors.

I include here a few of their realizations:
  • Hospitality often involves significant cost to the poor: providing simple tea and biscuits blew the family budget for a few days
  • It's harder to be generous when budget is tight: they found themselves becoming stingier
  • Frustration when others don't pay their way: they learned humility to ask others for repayment
  • Medical visit would have meant not paying the rent: period.
  • The poor spend more to live: buying smaller volumes and lower quality meant higher per-item cost and more frequent replacements
  • Minimal budget takes more time: Deciding how to spend money is a pre-occupation.
Living on less, working in an under-employed job, staying aware of cultural pressures... this article fueled my desire to be "in solidarity" with people who are poor. Which is why my current role as receptionist at a non-profit agency keeps me grounded.

Every day, people walk in with little to nothing. They seek assistance. They seek someone to hear their story. They just left an abusive relationship. They don't have any heat. They want to organize someone to give their kid a gift this holiday season. While I am pulled into their story, I am relieved that I can point them to our referral service. I am honored to be close to these folks, even while I am repulsed by the systems that exist that influenced their being in this situation to begin with.

Working at the low end of the organizational hierarchy, I have had a few realizations myself about having less privilege:
  • Privacy and personal space is little to none: Those higher in the organization have their own, lockable offices and personal space. I am learning to be more public.
  • What's "mine" is "yours": The stationary supplies belong to everyone in the office. Just because I have a preferred black pen that I keep near my keyboard doesn't mean that someone might walk by and "like" it. I am learning to use what is nearby and not make favorites, since it will probably disappear during the day.
  • It's harder to say what I need: Most everyone else's priorities come first. When faced with an envelope-stuffing deadline, I found it hard to ask for help. I know better - I must ask when I need assistance and not think "oh, it's just this simple task, I can do it" when there are so many competing priorities.
I'm finding that yes, it's a strain on my spirit to live into a sense of abundance and the YES of God, with power and privilege all around. How blessed I am to be reminded and to practice possibilities. Tough lessons. I pray for God to keep reminding me.

What is your needle's eye like, in this moment?

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who 'have it all' to enter God's kingdom?" The disciples couldn't believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: "You can't imagine how difficult. I'd say it's easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for the rich to get into God's kingdom."That set the disciples back on their heels. "Then who has any chance at all?" they asked. Jesus was blunt: "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it." Mark:10:23-27 (The Message)

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