It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Let the poor and hungry among you come and harvest the crops that spring up in your fields. Whatever is left over, the beasts may eat. Do the same thing with your vineyards and your olive groves.
My first introduction to real poverty occurred when traveling with a friend to spend a little fun in the sun at a resort in Dominican Republic. My friend, Nancy, had tried to prepare me. But, there’s no way to prepare oneself for what I was about to see.
We had barely driven away from the airport and onto the road when the gravity of poverty hit me full force.
Scattered along the roadside were makeshift shanties made of whatever materials folks could gather. Children hung about in various stages of undress. Dirty. Big-eyed. And no doubt hungry.
As we continued our journey we passed beautifully manicured lawns that led to gated resorts. Palms trees waved. Coral-colored condo’s and high-rises peaked out above the palms. As well as snippets of white, sandy beaches and the sparkling, blue ocean as wide as the eye can see.
I tried to absorb the dichotomy. Desperate poverty just outside the gates of incredible wealth.
When we arrived at our destination, Nancy took me on a tour of our new abode’s beautiful grounds. There were tropical flowers like the bright blue Isabel Segunda, the crazy-looking Bird of Paradise, and flaming red Delonix regia, better known as Flamboyants, that I had seen only in magazines. Not to mention pink Bougainvillea’s and bright orange Penta’s. It was breathtaking.
But, I was haunted.
When we went for supper at the all-you-can-eat buffet, I ate, but, I didn’t really feel hungry. Not when I knew there were folks outside our compound who would never see that kind of spread in their lifetime.
That kind of spread is the American daily diet. Oh, perhaps we don’t eat like that every day, or even every week, but it’s available. We can eat like kings any day that we wish to.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that we tend to be a nation of complainers. We’ve grown far too accustomed to plenty. Therefore, we’ve become expectant. Demanding. Unhappy. Unappreciative.
So, how do we reconcile our riches? Our abundance? Our excess?
I think a step back, especially at this time of year, is always a good place to start. Set apart some time to reflect on your own attitudes of late. Ask yourself hard questions like, “Where have I become demanding, expectant, unappreciative? And why is that? How can I cultivate an attitude of gratitude, not only throughout Thanksgiving and Christmas, but all year through?”
Another way to reconcile our wealth is to give some of it and our goods away to those who need it most.
When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.
One of our favorite places to give is www.samaritanspurse.com, they are the first responders in any disaster across the country or around the world. We also love to give to Dorothy Day Center and Union Gospel Mission who feed the homeless year-round. And we give to Feed My Starving Children and www.healinghaiti.com who do amazing work.
Another way to give is to give gifts made by those working their way out of poverty or human trafficking. We buy from organizations like Vineworks, Trades of Hope or shop at Art2Heart in Hamel, MN.
I once heard a message by Greg Boyd, author of Letters from a Skeptic, that challenged us to live on 10 percent of our income and give 90 percent away. I wish I could say that I’ve lived that pattern of life out exactly, but it did help inspire us to live on less. Wouldn’t it be amazing to begin living that way if we could?
And with the holidays coming, it’s so easy to go overboard buying our kids Christmas gifts. Let’s be honest, our kids have so much already.
My hubby and I established a tradition in our family after we moved back to the States from France with our first-born son. We give three gifts. One to represent the gold offered to Jesus by the wise men. One to represent frankincense and one to represent myrrh. Our gold gifts are valuable or money. Our frankincense gifts are practical. And the myrrh gifts are spiritual. And although our boys are in their thirty’s, we still carry on the practice.
Let’s together reconcile our riches by living in gratitude, giving lavishly to those who have nothing, and scaling back on our own “wish list” and those of our kiddos because we have more than enough just by being Americans.
The best things to do with the best things in life is to give them away.
Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that “God loves a cheerful giver.”
—2nd Corinthians 2:9
For it is in giving that we receive.
—Saint Francis of Assisi