Sunday, October 5, 2008

rich by association

I walk by this fountain every day on my way to work.

Sundays are a hard day for me, they have been for a long time. Being here it is nothing new, just an extension of a longer experience that started elsewhere in some other place and in some other time. Sundays seem like they should be a time to be grateful, spent with friends and family. I miss people on Sundays. The first half of this year Sundays were a little less hard with Christ Church, Advent, and the Book of Common Prayer.
ALMIGHTY God, from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed: Kindle, we pray thee, in the hearts of all men the true love of peace, and guide with thy pure and peaceable wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquillity thy kingdom may go forward, till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I was talking to someone the other day about their social standing here as opposed to in the US. She was saying how she always felt out of place in the US and so, literally being out of place feels comfortable as opposed to always being in a place where she's supposed to fit in (in the US) and not being able to. It made me think about the fact that there is such a think as 'literal wealth', 'perceived wealth' and 'wealth by association'.

It is hard to deny that there are some people who are rich. They have access to money, power, and influence. They are literally rich. There are other people who give the perception of being rich. They might not have as much money but, they have physical characteristics or are from a certain part of the world that gives the impression that they are 'probably' rich. Then, there are those people who may not have much money and don't quite look like they would be rich but, they have access to a certain amount of influence by their associations.

I get frustrated when people treat me with preference just because they think that I'm used to a lot of luxury (if they only knew!). Special treatment goes with being among those who 'have'. I can relate to the girl who feels out of place in the US. How to administrate wealth is an issue even if you aren't literally rich. Just because being here you're now able to live in the social class that you think you belong to doesn't mean that you are in the same shoes as the people around you.

How to use the 'wealth by association' that you have for the privileges that might not be financial but give you advantages even over your financial equals where you're living is a tricky question. I think that the best rule of thumb is that whatever you do with the influence or privilege you have (literal wealth or whatever kind it might be) it should never be-little others and should primarily be 'good'. It should be shared but only to affirm the beauty of life with others, not to make others feel inferior. It should be humble, so as to not lord it over others. It should not be denied, so as to not minimize the reality of the challenges that others face. You shouldn't always spend more money on things, 'just because you can'. Living simply is good.

I like to take my cues from those who actually literally have less than I do. There is no need for me to talk about what I have or don't have. When they offer to share with me, I accept gratefully. I look for the beauty in the simple things that they have. I find joy in the things that they find joy in. I look to celebrate the things that they are celebrating. I seek to mourn with them when they are grieving and if I have the ability to help in proportion to their generosity towards me, I will do my best to do so wisely. Doing good and loving well is not something that is discovered one day and never has to be re-considered. I think it is something that has to be re-learned in every new person and situation that I encounter.

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke