------------------------------------So. This chapter really messed with me. It's not because I feel completely convicted, but rather, it is because I bristled at Jen's assertion that "donating to Goodwill is fine, but . . . " She went on to quote Shane Claiborne (see below), and she concluded that specific, person-to-person giving, where rich and poor meet, is more meaningful. I bristled because I donate to Goodwill and the "but" made me feel bad. I shouldn't feel bad about doing something that is good. And yet I did, because it pointed out an embarrassing reality of my life - I don't have a lot of interaction with the poor.
I used to. I grew up with lots of kids who qualified as poor. At school, my middle-class self was in the minority. Many of my classmates lived in government housing, and they called me "rich" because I lived in a two story brick house. (Yes, Jen's introduction about why she wrote this book - being called "rich" by a hurricane evacuee who saw her house - resonated.) I was familiar with "the poor." We passed notes in Spanish class and worked on the yearbook together. It wasn't always friendly; some kids resented me and showed it in nasty ways, but now I can say that I'm glad I had that experience.
Had that experience. It is over now. My life is different and I am living like most people - with my own. For the most part, the poor are with the poor, the middle class are with the middle class, and the rich are with the rich. I mean, really - are you friends with people in a different (really different) socioeconomic situation? It is a conundrum. When I am provoked by an author like Jen, to think about interacting with the poor, getting to know them, and meeting their needs first hand, it is easy to let defensiveness stop me short. It is easy to find excuses. What? Am I supposed to move my family? Put my kids in a failing school? Drive downtown at night? Giving to charities and dropping off at Goodwill isn't good enough anymore? There is a temptation to say, "Whatever. I do enough."
That is where this chapter gave me fits. And after much thought, (and writing, and deleting) I don't think Jen wants me to feel terrible about myself. I don't think she is advocating class warfare, or the idea that possessions shouldn't be earned. I think she simply wants me to remember that "the poor" are real people. They have hearts and faces and tears, like me. They have dreams and faults and fears, like me. It could be me.
I get that. I know that. I can think about a lot of different people in my life and KNOW that. Still, I am wrestling with this quote, and the idea that it can be this simple:
"I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that the rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor . . . I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago suburbs, for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other . . . I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end." Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, as quoted in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.
I'm pretty sure the answer is: Jesus.
So. I am left clinging to what my pastor says every Sunday, and what Shane says right in the middle of his big, hopeful quote: For each to see God's image in the other. To see . . . each other. If I see God's image in you, and you see God's image in me, then perhaps it isn't so complicated. Perhaps that is what was missing from my experience before. Perhaps, with God's reflection in the picture, we can see the good intentions on both sides. Perhaps there is Kumbaya hope.
What do you think? Is face-to-face giving important to you? How do you do it?
Thought Provoking Thursday @intentional.me