A highly financially solvent woman once asked me "why do poor people think rich people should give them money?" Huh???? It was said in a particularly snotty tone of voice. I wasn't even sure if she was including me as one of the rich who had found the answer to the pesky little problem, or one of the poor who was trying to suck money out of her. Given that I was working with her on a home improvement project for which she was paying me, because I needed work and had no money, I knee jerked to the latter. I was initially tempted to rip her a new one but there were just too many things being undersaid in her question that I just couldn't leave it not bitched about:
1. Rich people - would you define that for me, please? Who's rich? You? If you had a brain, you would hire somebody else to use it for you! You got yourself some money, don't you? Good for you. Why do you think that makes you better than me? How'd you get that money? Your daddy and granddaddy and great granddaddy died and gave it to you! And when your Momma dies, God rest her soul, you will get even more! Weehaw! That sho nuff makes you waaaaaay better person than me and so much better off than I can imagine. I once sat with a friend and wistfully said "I sure do wish I was rich." To which friend responded "Why do you think you aren't?" I have friends who love me, a good educations, the enthusiasm for good work and the ability to laugh loudly and with all my heart. Turns out, I'm pretty rich.
2. Poor people - would you define that for me, please? Jesus said there would always be the poor among us. Yes, we know there are those who have no home, no food, no education, no hope. Of all those things, we can easily provide for all but hope. Hope comes hard. It takes real effort. It takes time, imagination, and some days it takes absolutely everything you got. Sometimes, every thing you got isn't close to enough. I got money today, but I can't buy $50 worth of propane to get me through to next month when I'll have $100 more to toss at it, but they won't shot up for less than $200. Who knew it would be this cold in October. I thought for sure I could make it until December 1st with just a little faith. November 29, and I get the propane. November 30, a tree falls and smashes the house. No such thing as a propane refund. So, you who daily calls 1-800-DO-IT-FOR-ME to have your toilet paper changed, would it really hurt you to actually give a little money to a genuine, bona fide person who has none? I can live all year just on what you spend in one month at Walmart. Without even being thrifty. Who's poor? Within 2 hours I have a place to live with heat, thanks to a friend who just happens to have a house. Thank you God for your plans for me. Thank you God for friends. I will need another place to live next year, and as I walk into church full of faith that You will lead me to where I need to be, a friend needs help, would I, could I, please, live in her basement? We all provide.
3. Why is giving money to poor people so wrong? There's this attitude that if you have no money, there must be some lingering, underlying, nefarious moral issue at work in your life. Somehow, you just aren't good enough. For me, it worked like this: I got out of college and began to meticulously, carefully, deliberately plan my life. Of course, life happened other wise, and I rolled with the punches, got back up, went back to planning, got better and better jobs, better and better educations, better and better homes and better and better stuff. Then, one day, out of the blue, it all came tumbling down. Blindsided on a Tuesday. I hit a big, fat, hard brick wall. Family health problems and my own personal issues collided into a spiral of reality checking like I never imagined. In a world where what goes around comes around, I had to face up to a whole lot of mean, angry bad shit.
I got therapy. I got God. I was born of Jesus in a dream, and summoned to a conference with the Prophet (not profit) Muhammad (peace be upon him, praise to him, peace, love, and whatever it is that is said - and why don't I know this yet?). Buddha laughed. When the dust had finally settled, I emerged happier, wiser, and with a greater ability to laugh at myself and the world in general. I had no plan. I gave up. God wants me to do something, God knows how to get it done. God knows I don't. That was my plan. That is still my plan. I don't have any money, because God don't want me to have no money. God has her reasons. I have no idea what they are, but I have a roof over my head, I have food to eat, I have heat, beauty, laughter and the best friends anyone could ever want or hope or pray for. I'm still not poor.
As for the friend, I still like her. I disagree with her on a lot. I don't see her much anymore, but that's another issue for another day. So, when she asks me why poor people think rich people should give them money, I just tell her what she really already knows: Because Jesus said so.