Of Wealth and Insulation

 

The king has his castle. The peasant his hovel.

And so, it is the way of the world and of us all.

I have talked about my trips to Haiti with lots of people. Usually to the point of their boredom. And for that, my sincerest apologies.

I had gleaned more from my first trip than I expected: poverty, hope, sadness, hunger, beauty, compassion, resilience, greed.  But the one thing I took away that I never expected was the correlation between wealth and our self-imposed insulation from the world.

This is not an American trait, this is human. The survivalist instinct to protect ourselves from the harshness of the outside world. What is the primary concern of the survivalist TV shows? Shelter.

In Haiti, a poor person walks; and with a little money, you can take a tap tap (google it); a little more, buy a motorcycle; a little more, a car. And if you have a lot more, you get to drive your car with your windows up.

And we are no different in the States.  From bus to car, to car with a/c, to cars with a/c and double-paned windows, to your own driver. If you are truly fortunate, you can have a helicopter and look down upon the hapless peons stuck in traffic. Even the ones WITH a driver. Game. Set. Match.

From the street to garage apartment, to apartment with central air, to single family, to gated community. From the family road trip to plane ticket, to first class, to partial share, to having your own plane.

What is truly remarkable is that we do this same action with nearly everything in our lives: our schools, food, clothing, entertainment. The more we are resourced, the longer the arm. We can easily look at something with disdain (like eating at Applebee’s or In-N-Out Burger) that others will never have the chance to experience. Schooling that would be a godsend to some, becomes something beneath or unimaginable to others. Whenever I buy a better shirt; I can’t stand wearing the other, cheaper ones. You can have it.

Understand that I am not knocking wealth or shaming the poor. I live in South Texas and have a deep and abiding love of central air and double-paned windows. I have flown first class, and at 6 foot 5 inches, I highly recommend, and freely admit to loving it. I’ve also been so broke I had to collect change from under my car seat to get enough gas to get home. Lifestyles of the self-employed.  This is more about the mental blindness of our own desires. The constant drive to shelter us from everything else.

Jesus would talk with anyone, especially the lost, the forgotten, the shamed, and in the case of Matthew, the universally hated. It ticked off the Pharisees that he would talk to others that they themselves would never have talked with.

The Good Samaritan stopped to help, when no one else would.

Mother Teresa touched the untouchables. An unthinkable act in a caste society.

It’s easy to wrap my head around my own thoughts, my own needs, and my own desires. To do so for someone else is much more the challenge.  And be assured I am nowhere near Jesus, or Mother Teresa. Probably something closer to Matthew.

But, at the end of the day, we all have this dream of moving up. And it’s not always monetarily. Spiritually, emotionally, socially, affirmation, validation, forgiveness – we all want to insulate ourselves from something, to remove or mitigate the pain that this world creates.  And if we have that desire, I’m guessing everyone else does as well.

Published by Deron Reid

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