A Fist Full of Fiscal Fears


I need to talk about money bad. I need to talk about my fist full of fiscal fears. This has been true for years: I explain how much I make and how much I spend and it doesn’t add up. A living wage for me is about $14.50/hr. It’s been that amount for at least a decade. I worked at CapitalOne for a couple years, lived in a hotel and made $14.00/hr. A big reason for pursuing a leased house was to live cheaper in a better domicile. The hotel cost me roughly $900/month. My house with all the bills costs about $150.00/month less. So, do I have that $150.00/month? I do not.

A Fist Full of Nothing

Where is it? If I had put that $150.00/month in a savings account I’d have $4500.00 in principle. Dave Ramsey talks about having $1,000.00 in cash as a reserve. After paying off your debt the next step is 3-6 months of cash reserve. Assuming it costs me $2200/month to live, I need at least $6600.00 in the bank after becoming debt free. That $150.00/month cost savings is 68% of what I need in cash reserves. I have $500.00 or so.

I haven’t answered the question, “where is it?” Where is that $4500.00? Gone. Spent. On stupid stuff. $4500.00 of FUB.

Promises, Promises

As I type this I am a month behind on my utility bill with the city, I owe almost $400.00 on my cell phone bill and I don’t have the rent money due this week. My car’s inspection sticker expired last October and I have three traffic citations accusing me of driving the Impala with the expired sticker. The car needs another couple thousand to make it right even after spending $3,000.00 on repairs. I owe $540.00 on my credit card.

What I say to everyone is that I am broke. I can’t afford to do the responsible things with my money. Doing the right thing has to wait while I put out one more fiscal fire. I keep putting this off, telling myself that I’ll take care of it once I have a job that pays enough. Just a little longer and there won’t be so many fiscal fears and fires to deal with. When things are better I’ll do the right thing. I’m on the far side of my mid-fifties. Hillel, “אם אני לא לעצמי מי הוא בשבילי? ולהיות עצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, מתי??

I promised as 2016 came to a close, to tithe more and save more. It’s what you do when in the company of a case worker. You say the right words about doing the right thing while knowing you are lying. I am tithing less and letting the calls from collection agencies go to voice mail. My promises mean less than Catullus’ words from his avid lover.

 

The Fist Full of Fiscal Fears

One more thing. A couple months ago I maxed out my $750.00 limit on my credit card. Then I made my plans for a trip to South Carolina based on having sufficient available credit. If I didn’t pay off the credit card the South Carolina trip falls apart. So, I started paying $50.00/week and more toward my credit card balance.

The Impala needs too much work. Court dates on the Impala start next month. I need a car before returning to court. There are still bills that need catching up. It is the end of May. My employer is converting me from a temporary worker to full-time. I have fiscal nuclear bombs exploding in my life for the next couple months..

I’ll be getting paid twice a month instead of every week. I won’t see a paycheck until late in the first month. Rent, the utility bill from the city, my cell phone bill, and my light bill, all have to get paid twice in a few weeks to avoid the sort of fiscal nuclear bomb that would put me on the street. Plan for that? No. I ain’t got no plan for that.

Mo Money Mo Better?

Oprah discovered this. It is an easy slide up the economic scale. As income increases we expand our lifestyle to consume the increase. New vistas and possibilities open up as our income climbs. Some of us make polite sounding noises about the increase not changing our lifestyle. Right. Pay cash for a bucket list car? Why thank you, I think I will.

Each step up we say again that we are entitled to the shopping list made possible by the new economic level. It gets easy to forget the old roach and rat infested third floor walkup with hissing steam radiators that only seem to work in the summer. Cash for a genuine Rolex? Definitely.

Yet, when we lived in that dump and rode the bus we made ends meet. The budget balanced because it had to. Now that we have arrived and can buy a watch equivalent to over a year of wages our budget doesn’t balance. Mo Money isn’t on its own mo better.

Money won’t fix it unless you get at the underlying reason why someone can’t keep it together. I have to do the work to heal my broken relationship with money. If I stay the same then my post in December of this year will have nothing to show for my added $900.00/month.

The Challenge

Jesus tells us to take nothing with us. God provides for the sparrow. How much more will he provide for us? We live in an empire that is a top ten all time wealthiest. Our first world life affords us a base-line lifestyle most of the world envies. The challenge is to live a frugal life in this cornucopia of indulgences we bathe in.

This is my challenge also. To live a $15.00/hr. life while earning $5.00/hr. more than that. Resist the natural growth in lifestyle available because of the extra income. My history on this does not bode well.

Jesus Doesn’t Deserve This

A thousand words down and I finally come out with it. I have a huge problem with giving money to the church. I’ve held this grudge since I was a kid. You read pieces of it here. I don’t like blindly giving fish. I wish we in the west would slow down before we fly 10,000 pounds of rice over the African Savannah and push it out of the back of a C-130 because of that doe-eyed kid we’ve all seen in UNICEF TV ads. So much of what the church does with tithing bugs me. I give to the church grudgingly, when I give at all.

I am still a fan of Robert Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity” and Dambiza Moyo’s, “Dead Aid.” I want the church to be smarter about how it does missions and service. Just doing resource dumps is stupid.

But . . . countless times in my nearly three score years the church has had my back. There are many in a number of congregations who are angels to me. It wasn’t always cash. Sometimes it was strong words or prayer. Everything done for me was done without an overt demand for compensation.

I.O. Him

Name for me another organization that would provide food, shelter, mental health services, transportation, access to medical care, religious education and fellowship for free. Where else can you find a scholar deeply educated in scripture who will give of his time free of charge? Grocery store gift cards.

Is the church sinful? Yes. It is filled with people. People sin. Not all people. Enough people to make the two word premise valid. Churches are filled with messed up people who did some fucked up shit. These messed up people are there because something drove them to seek revolution in their lives by following the way of life evangelized by a no-account carpenter from Nazareth who was martyred over 2,000 years ago. 2,000 years is a long time to not screw up.

In 2,000 years, have Christians ever done anything to anger others? Have we sinned? Every damned day. So, I, along with many, who get self-righteous and point angry fingers at the church, need to check our selves. Since when did we gain the right to stipulate that we are without sin but those guys, those Jesus freaks, well . . . they are evil. It is not credible that I could justify my resentment and miserly contributions to the church because those guys don’t deserve it until they come correct.

Money Bull Sh*t

Right, so here we are. The right thing to say is, “I am sorry. I’ll start tithing more diligently.” Those words are crap. What we both know as I type this is that I still have some forgiving to do. I owe the church the recognition of what it has done for me for free in the form of a stack of Benjamins. I ought not continue to judge. My cries of poverty are bullshit. I’ll let you know how it went in December of this year.

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Fair Play

Last week the news was agog with a law passed in Indiana declaring that government could not force someone to do something where that something conflicted with religious beliefs. The thing that really bugs me about the controversy is that it is a double standard. Here we are again where membership in the fashunable crowd gives license to behavior not permissible for those on the outs. I, the fat, white, middle aged WASP, am on the outs and thus constrained in permissible behavior.

religious_freedom_billI’d be golden if I were a woman, brown and a lesbian. I could do what I want. I could talk trash about fat white bastards like me with impunity. I could explain my behavior as caused by FWB’s. I could lay my misery at their feet. It would be their fault. It would be lovely.

Instead, I’m the bad guy. My ancestors are horrid Scotch-Irish who invaded the virgin, pastoral bliss of the Native Americans, raped the land, plundered its riches, and built an iron outhouse filling the unsullied utopia with pollution, greed and oppression. I am a scourge to be purged from the land. I am worthless. I am the reason your life is screwed. You are welcome.

Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn’t work it iterate the sins of my ancestors and visit them on others. True revolution doesn’t come when the oppressed become the oppressors. True revolution begins in the heart, in the stomach, in the soul & spirit and is begun at the cross in love. It begins with each of us accepting the truth of the new kingdom launched when Christ rose on the third day. Hey, you are reading a blog by a Christian man. Did you think you wouldn’t get through it without a little preaching? You did? Yeah, that didn’t happen. This post happened.

Listen, the point is this, you can’t box me up in a cage and chain me to a puritan orthodoxy of your making in the name of fairness and freedom from triggers. I, caged, become the prisoner and you, formerly imprisoned, become the guard. Good for you, bad for me and not much of a change, actually. If I am to tolerate your orthodoxy then, and sorry, this sucks, you have to tolerate mine. A pissing match where the bullets are rules to restrict me and I, in return, fire back with rules of my own, will just bury us in rules that become impossible to follow and after a while, become a joke. We are better off allowing individuals to refuse to do something they object to than trying to find laws which force us to do something which suits the whim of some special interest group like the LBGT community or mine, the hateful WASPS. Even if my narrative is irrational to you, is nuts, the principle I advocate for–to love kin, neighbors and enemies alike, stands. That’s where this needs to go. Not terribly original. But, with trying to protect religious freedom or the freedom to marry a couple nuts, it just works better if we figure out what it means to start from loving each other and go from there.

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The Big Score

First Posted 26-Feb-2015

This one is as nuts as some of my recent posts, maybe more. A friend of mine, who did a long bit in prison, still wants to hit the big score and dump a bunch of cash into his neighborhood. His idea is that if the score was big enough he could buy off all the poor people and in one fell swoop, fix the problems in his neighborhood. People would love him, he’d get his (new) Cadillac, young women would want to be with him, and so on. It’s a fantasy that only works on TV or in Hollywood. In Real Life, it’s a non-starter.

diamond_dollarThese ideas come up. It’s a popular fantasy that you could dump enough cash into one locality to end poverty there. Let’s play with it for a bit. To make the score big enough we are talking $32.1 billion or so. There are roughly 26,000 people in this guy’s neighborhood. It’s a nice mix, with the median income being about $28,000.00/year. To make the math easy, we’ll say the median income is $30,000.00/year. Median age is 38. So, we are talking about $30,000/year for almost 40 years for 26,000 people. $31,200,000,000 to create enough cash that all 26,000 could spend $30,000.00/year for 40 years and not be broke. Show me a single crime that can pay off 31.2 billion in once score. IMHO, doesn’t exist. So, the size of the score is one problem.

The other concern is 26,000 instant millionaires who may not have the life skills necessary to be disciplined with $1,200,000.00. The feeding frenzy potential here is pretty intense. 26,000 to 1 that everyone would behave with their 1.5 million is lottery odds. If 1,300 (5%) misbehave that’s still $1,560,000,000.00 worth of cash dumped into the grey & black market economies. The possibilities are scary.

that’s the number in play if we are going to give everyone in his neighborhood enough money to retire comfortably. It is that much money. Enough that the size of the wad of cash starts twinkling in the eyes of the politicians and the one holding that bankroll suddenly has friends in high places he didn’t have before. It is a big impact on the social and political scene in which it appears.

That’s enough cash dumped into one zip code that it would change the character of the neighborhood. Before the money Highland Park is perceived as a a ghetto. It isn’t, actually. The medium income is decent and the majority of the folk in the area work. It’s only a small number of bad actors that get the attention and drive the news narrative about this zip code. After dumping $31.2 billion into it and just the cash makes it a desirable place to be. Suddenly lots of folks want to buy the 19th century homes in the area, driving property values and initiating the sort of gentrification that would permanently alter the character of Highland Park.

It would mean my friend could not live there and pay the same rent he currently pays. I reckon he includes himself in the group of folk who would collect their $1.2 million so maybe this doesn’t matter. My friend, in his naiveté, believes that he could do this and it would come out the way he wanted it to. People would behave, invest the money wisely, and be able to afford a reasonable income for the rest of their lives. I disagree.

This is so much cash that it would take on a life of its own. The challenge of mastering it rather than becoming a slave to it is daunting. With this much money in play could he live a disciplined life? He could totally, stupidly indulge every one of the seven deadly sins and have plenty of money left over for his philanthropic largess. Right now, he’s living on Social Security Disability. There isn’t enough money in his life for him to get into much trouble. $31.2 billion, though, is a lot of potential mischief. It’d take a remarkable person not to be drawn into at least a little excessive behavior. He’s not that remarkable. He’d do something and depending on what he did, make a mess of it, maybe a irrecoverable mess. This too, $1,560,000,000.00 given to the drug & crime lords in his neighborhood from a guy whose expressed purpose is to eliminate economic misery and the monetary motivation to commit crime. Somehow, having 1,560,000,000.00 loose in the black market doesn’t seem like a crime reduction plan. It seems like a cash fueled bacchanal that would spike crime and have the opposite result from what is intended. Then, the cash would be gone at some point and what then?

That 5% that fueled the bacchanal would have to deal with a community hangover of prodigious size. The money is gone so the lifestyle it supported would collapse. The support systems that existed before the windfall may have been pushed aside by all that cash and thus, wouldn’t be there when the hangover began. It would be an epic economic crash, an epic community hangover. You can poke around to find stories of lottery winners or others that had a sudden windfall of cash and instead of it solving problems, it creates them. I don’t see any difference here. Even if 95% of the folk who got their $1.5 million dollar gift from my bank robber friend did behave, the other 5% that didn’t would still have a big effect on the community. 2,000 people in a small geographic area who are suddenly rich and then suddenly facing Sunday morning, hungry, broke, hung-over and in trouble. Bad news, I’d say. I made much of Robert Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity“ and Dambisa Moyo’s, “Dead Aid“ last year. These two writers talk about the damage that can be done by ignorant resource dumps of the sort that my friend imagines as the answer. More money isn’t the answer. Intelligent engagement with the community and a long term plan for micro-investment to promote economic development is a better answer than $32,100,000,000.00 dropped into the ghetto he lives in. One last thing. Alongside this wish for the one big score is a core belief that he doesn’t want to do more time. If he did pull off a $32,100,000,000.00 job, he’d be prime beef for the FBI. He’s already done 30 years in prison. He’s in his 60’s. If he did this, he’d die in prison. There is no way they’d let him get away with it. So, the two don’t go together. He can’t have his big score without doing big time. The whole thing is nuts.

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It’s Eve’s Fault

My fellow blogger Aubrey Eicher posted an essay on Eve and the apple.” She writes, “When we love, we do not want to do anything to hurt the heart of the person, or in this case, God.” Which are fine words from a young Christian woman writing in 2015. We have at least five millennia of experience in what is and isn’t out of bounds behavior. If you doubt this, do something out of bounds to a woman and see what happens. Actually, don’t. There is enough out of bounds behavior without my encouraging it.

Smoked-RattlesnakeNeither Adam nor Eve had knowledge of how you love, what love is/was, and what is and isn’t out of bounds behavior. *Everything* is new, a first, including what it means to be a partner to someone. Aubrey says, “Surely, myself included, we would love to go back to the garden and slap the fruit out of Eve’s hand, and give her a piece of our mind, ‘What ARE you doing, you dumb broad, didn’t you hear what God said? Yes, Aubrey, she did. Eve didn’t have the benefit of a few thousand years of hindsight. Worse, not knowing of good and evil, she had no way to express nor process events and behavior that felt out of bounds. Adam could and probably did, do things that caused Eve duress. But it was all good (right?) because without knowing of good and evil there is nothing that is out of bounds. Last, a word from us, the malcontents, we know, she knew and it wasn’t enough, isn’t enough.

I find it beyond reason that the purported prior-fall Eden was entirely sunshine and lollipops. God created a world in which free will exists. This includes the freedom to use his creation for ill as well as good. C.S Lewis, in his, “Problem of Pain“, talks about a baseball bat being a tool for sport as well as a weapon. God made the baseball bat. Man makes a choice and it is either used for sport or for crime. He leaves it to us to decide what to do with His creation. Google News will give you plenty of examples of poor choices. I find it hard to believe that the lack of knowledge of good and evil would obviate the possibility of ill will. Either he made an Eden where free will was impossible, and thus made a couple who were not completely in His image, or he made an Eden where they didn’t know what was and wasn’t in-bounds behavior but could, out of innocence, still behave in ways that were transgressive. You could slap the fruit out of Eve’s hand and she would still be stuck with an impossible to understand feeling that some of what Adam did was not right. Enter the serpent. Eve had her reasons.

To recap: the serpent tells Eve that if she defies God and eats of the forbidden fruit she will gain the knowledge of good and evil. She ate and fed some to Adam as well. In all the sermons I’ve heard and retellings of this tale I can’t remember any time spent in the run-up to her choice. It’s narrated as a series of disconnected events, the serpent talking to Eve, then Eve eating, then Eve feeding some of the fruit to Adam, then feeling shame at their nudity, then clothing themselves, then hiding from and being found by God, then banishment and consequences. It is beyond reason to me that Eve was not talking to Adam through all this. On many Sundays in the sermon I’m told that Eden before the fall was a paradise where evil was impossible. Paradise for whom?

The bible is conspicuously silent on what Eve was going through in her early days. Or that Eve wasn’t processing the events of her life and trying to figure out (a) what it all means and (b) what she should do about it. It was all new to Adam as well. He had no frame of reference, save what God had been telling him, of how to live on God’s good side. Not knowing of Good and Evil, without the law, he had a hard time with Eve, who was not as rebellious as Lilith but was still crazy making. There was no one he could commiserate with, no parents to talk to, no fellow newlywed men to joke about married life with. He had to bootstrap all of this himself. Eve, younger than him, didn’t know either and for all it mattered, was dumber than a box of rocks.

There is another discredited narrative lurking about in Jewish folklore–Lilith. She, it is told, was the first woman, created of the same soil as Adam, and banished from Eden because the fight between her and Adam got so severe she fled to the desert, spewing threats and curses the whole way. One more element. We don’t have a story that connects Lilith to Eve. Lilith exists in Mesopotamian folklore and predates Judaism. If folk tales of Lilith and Eve exist they have not survived. Suppose these two women were alive at similar times, are we sure they never spoke? We can’t say because we don’t have anything to connect the two. But . . . this space is the realm of the bard. This is not a limitation here. This blog can say it, taking the privilege of the story teller, and proceed from there. We’ll say Lilith was able to fill in the details of the dispute over a salad of smoked rattlesnake, sunflower seed and kale dressed with a lime, cilantro and peanut oil vinaigrette served with a nice Riesling. Eve would hear that she wasn’t the first, and why Lilith lived in the desert, shunned.

This means that if she was to get along with Adam she could not merely defy him. She could not plant her flag on equal liberty with Adam and expect to gain his assent. There had been too many words between the angels, Adam and Lilith, too much done, to make that reasonable. Eve needed a new way to be with Adam. Could it be that if he knew what he’d done wrong, if he could be made to see the error of his ways, that there could be rapprochement in Eden and the strife of the past could remain in the past, leaving Eve safe?

Consider Eve’s position. She is newly made of Adam’s rib. She is physically a woman, fully capable of everything God expects of her. Adam has all these “should’s” and “spose-to’s” from his disastrous relationship to Lilith. He’s still seething at the mention of her. He feels entitled to being treated a certain way, full of rants about being respected and the proper place of a . Though she is physically mature she is still young to this life and so much is hard to sort out. Knowing the right thing to do isn’t straightforward. She has no history to refer to, no older kin to speak with. Her only source of reference is God, who is at a turn loving and paternal in frustrating ways, and Adam, who isn’t helping.

Eve has no friends save for these two men, one her father, the other her husband. They are men. They try when she wants to talk. But . . . guys are not girls and though they mean well, it’s not the same talking to them. Lilith is banished so getting to speak with her is extremely difficult. Eve and Lilith had that lunch but since then God has had angels watching her so getting out hasn’t been possible. Adam and God have no clue what it’s like to be a woman in this paradise. Instead, there are legion expectations and pompous, chest puffed, chauvinist ideas about what an ideal woman should be. Into this comes the serpent, who is wise enough to know when to shut up and let Eve talk.

God’s call to Eve was to be Adam’s helper. God keeps talking about children and that’s just disgusting. Adam has a lot to say about this, much of it conflicting with her conversations with God. God wants Adam to love him more dearly and wants Eve to help him with this. Adam seems to want sex (which, btw, could not have gone well at first, “You pee with that thing. You want to put it inside me and pee inside me? That is so not happening ever.” hot meals, a willing ear and someone to clean up after him. No mention of loving God in that. No shortage of what God owes Adam, though. So, here she is, newly made, newly married, to this creature who is inconsiderate, stubborn, resentful, angry at his ex, loudly declaiming that God owes him, and demanding of her. The serpent says that if Adam knew the difference between right and wrong maybe he’d understand the error of his ways and stop being such a prick.

Keep things the same in the garden, tolerating Adam and his anger toward women, toward Lilith and by extension, Eve, trusting God to work it out, or . . . disrupt, defy and in the defiance maybe get this lughead to come to his senses. Yes, the price was death but as in many of these broken relationships, physical death may be threatened but it is the spiritual death long ago initiated that has destroyed the souls of those involved and made physical death seem comforting. Plus, the serpent kept telling her that she would not physically die, not really. She would know from Lilith that the price was more probably divorce from Adam and banishment. So, it became a choice miseries.

Eve chose to eat of the apple and lived to suffer another day. Adam it seems, became a farmer and settled down enough to father Cain and Able. For Eve, good enough. She could live as a farmer’s wife and let the raucous early days of her life fade into fond family stories. For the rest of the story you can read your Bible. It’s all there.

Eve’s sin is still the sin of hubris. Though, not the sort of pride I’ve heard in so many sermons on so many Sundays. No, the old lie the serpent tells us and that we still fall for that we are alone, that no one else understands our problem the way we do, and that we have to take care of it ourselves. It is a pride that comes from fear overtaking our trust in God and in turn letting Him open our eyes to the hidden love and solutions possible once we stop being so scared and proud. Eve was young, thought she had to figure it out for herself, and listened to the serpent as he talked her into feeling isolated and desperate. It doesn’t justify her sin. It’s maybe like Chris Rock said about OJ Simpson–it isn’t right but you can understand.

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Define Poor

As I sit in the office I set up in the spare bedroom in my house without a job, with less than $40.00 of accessible cash, it’s easy to label myself as poor. If I don’t figure out how to pay my cable TV bill soon I’ll be stuck watching Netflix and will miss the new Season of Mythbusters. Horrible, right?

wretched_man-213x300This still sticks in my head like a stray cocaine addled ex-girlfriend who won’t leave. When we say we want to end poverty, what do we mean? Half of the world lives on less than $2.50/day. I feel impoverished because after I buy my cup of coffee from Starbucks I’ll only have 23¢. Who is really poor? Am I poor because I don’t have enough cash to buy my usual list from our local supermarket? Those people who live on $2.50 a day, are we saying those are the poor folk?

Let’s just make that claim. That for things to be fair everybody has to live on more than $2.50/day. Thus the answer is to dump cash into their country so that everybody can have oh, maybe $10.00/day to live on. We’ll make some sort of UN resolution that imposes sanctions or whatever on nations that we consider wealthy and force them to give their wealth to our designated poor countries so that everyone can have their daily Alexander Hamilton. Good plan, no?

Best Laid Plans

No. The places in the world where we in the first world have diagnosed the problem as a lack of cash and thus the solution is to empty the coffers of the first world into the third are cesspools. The sudden influx of cash breeds crime & corruption. The well meaning, utopian ngo’s & government officials responsible for administering the flood of cash are too easily corrupted. Something like 90% of the money sent is swallowed up in costs and corruption. I know, a rapid fire paragraph of seeming glittering generalities. Don’t believe I’m factual? Check out Dambiza Moyo’s, “Dead Aid”. Go read the old news articles on the Symbionese Liberation Army and their food drop. Ask a local soup kitchen how many of those in line for a meal are regulars the staff suspects are not as down in the mouth as they claim. Redistributing assets to make things fair too often escalates the unfairness.

Lists seem to be a fad among bloggers. They show up well on the little 4.3″ screens of everybody’s iPhones. I am a bit mobile unfriendly on this site. I tend to write long, at least 1,000 words or so. You have to scroll down (so fustrating) to read all of one of my posts. +1 way in which this blog is a pain in the ass. Before I finish this I have a list below for you:

Things Alan Owns
# Item Days to Earn @ $2.50/day
1 1 Can Bustello Coffee 1.5
2 Oscar Meyer Beef Franks 2.0
3 ½ gallon Soy Milk 2.0
4 Whole Chicken 4.0
5 Melita Drip Coffee Maker 5.0
6 Peet’s Coffee Whole Bean Major Dickenson’s Blend 5.2
7 TFal Pot & Pan set 50.0
8 Microwave Oven 36.0
9 Convection Oven 37.0
10 Vacuum Cleaner 40.0

These are just a few small things. I also own a laptop (600 days), a smart phone (160 days) and live in a single family home (240 days for one month’s rent). I drive an old car that by the standards of my friends, is a hoopty. At $2.50/day it would take 14 years to earn enough money to replace it. One mechanic offered to fix everything broken for 2 years wages. I have friends paying a mortgage on $250,000.00 homes. For 80% of the world 100,000 days (274 years, 14 generations) would pass before they could pay that off.

Color Blind Privilege

That’s one aspect of this. What I feel as poverty is wealth by a large percentage of the world’s population. This happens every once in a while and makes the news. Someone from a remote corner of the world where they hunt & gather is flown to a place like New York City and they have a meltdown. Something as simple as a small corner grocery is such an abundance of food at such extraordinary prices that they cannot believe what they are seeing. For most of their lives if they don’t go hunt something today they don’t eat today. And here they are among millions of people staring at the shelves of a small grocer with enough food to feed their village for a long time. And it’s just one small store. Walmart? OMG! Walmart makes them run in tears from the store. Walmart makes their head explode.

Yet these people have lived in hunter gatherer cultures for thousands of years. They are doing something right. Something else to consider–UN Relief and other foreign aid efforts have sent several trillion dollars to African nations over the last half-century or so. You would think that by now everybody there could be assured of their daily Hamilton and four times the amount of money they live on. Yet, over 50 years the cash has fostered incredible corruption and violence as the money is stolen by those who are able. Those for whom it was intended for absorb yet another sandpaper dildo shoved up their dignity. Go read Dambiza Moyo’s, “Dead Aid” if you want to hear more about this. I met someone from Uganda who giggled that when we send cash and food they just eat it and leave us good hearted folk with nothing to show for our well intentioned generosity.

I hope none of what I write here is news. If you want to know why I don’t give to UNICEF or respond to those heartbreaking TV ads for various NGO’s feeding the poor it is because mercy is one more thing that scales badly. Once governments get involved and there is substantial cash in play it’s hard for the establishment to be humble and do the right thing. To often their SumYung HotTea wants a fur coat and gets it for an equivalent price of 20 years salary for a lot of the world. Instead I’ve advocated working small, in our own neighborhoods, seeking to foster the gifts of my neighbors. Yes, yes, this does come from Robert Lupton’s, “Toxic Charity“. I like the book.

As we sit in our local café and bemoan the miseries of the third world it is easy to take another sip of our doppio-half-caf-soy-hazelnut cappuccino (2 days wages) and accuse the rich of our first world of having too much. I have a suggestion I make frequently. Grab somebody sitting next to you in that café and ask them to hold your table. Go outside and give $20.00 (8 days wages) to somebody who looks like they need it. Each time you feel the urge to shake your fist at the evil rich, do a small act of kindness with great love. Then do another and keep doing them.

Rome was an empire for 1400 years. For the first millennium it was an invincible force. Then a no account bastard Nazarene son of a carpenter was born in Bethlehem. At about age 30 he was crucified by the Romans at the request of the boy’s church leadership after being accused of blasphemy. Followers of this no-account boy were tormented, murdered, brutalized in the most vicious means imaginable. What could not be done by any in a thousand years was done by a few who sacrificed themselves over 4 centuries. His Way leached its way into the heart of Constantine.

Rome was sacked repeatedly until it fell for the last time around 440AD. You will hear that followers of Jesus of Nazareth were not the ones who brought down the great Empire. It was the Visigoths. Maybe so. Four centuries of speaking to the hearts of those in power, four centuries of asking them to follow the way of a ragamuffin boy from Nazareth, had its effect. The kingdom of Jesus lives in the hearts of billions of followers. Rome is a ruined city tourists visit to eat pizza and stare at fallen sports arenas. I think that carpenter’s boy won.

That’s my answer to those smoking Galious cigarettes, sipping that organic, fair trade latte and eyeing the “kill the 1%” protest sign proudly hung on the café wall above the flyer for river tours of the Douro. Christianity won against Rome by invading its heart. We won by small acts of kindness and uncommon grace.

You can be part of this revolution. No flags or riots needed. You know the drill. No, that old six word prayer is only a small part of it. I care more about these simple things: Love God with all your heart, mind and strength. Love friends, family and enemies alike. Forgive first, beyond 70 times 7. Wash feet. If you don’t understand what I mean by washing feet, ask one of us who follow Jesus. We invaded Rome’s heart and live in it rent free. I’ll take that as a win you can be part of for less than a day’s wages.

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