We Never Knew
Contemporary hard times have elicited the telling of stories about other times when, “Things were lots worse ’round here than they are now.” The Great Depression is part of most families’ oral histories. A phrase that often comes up in relating those experiences is, “We never knew we were poor.”
We have heard stories of kids sleeping three and four to a bed during the winter to keep warm, because there wasn’t enough firewood to burn in the stove through the night, then waking up to find ice on the inside of the window panes. Truck gardening, home canning, small game and deer hunting, keeping chickens, cows, and pigs, and baking from scratch helped lots of families get by. Worn-out clothes were saved to make quilt squares. Neighbors kept track of neighbors. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” was an adage to live by.
The church was the extension of families and neighbors. Everybody worked; everybody helped. When hard cash was needed to meet expenses or to pay for missions, creative fund-raising included public dinners, bake sales, auctions, and bazaars. “We tried to do what Jesus would want us to do. Nobody ever went hungry, and we never knew we were ‘doing without,’” was the way one of our now-departed saints described the way things worked. Folks just did what needed to be done, and in that approach to ministry, everyone was valued, everyone was cared for, and no one knew they were poor.
Not a bad way to be.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Whether we speak of the rich or the poor, Jesus calls all of us to open ourselves, to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from whatever possessions or attitudes or identities may encumber us, in order that we might be open and empty to welcome God. How happy are those who give up their trust in themselves and learn to trust God! If we allow ourselves to be remade by God, our attitudes, which often value distinctions between rich and poor, “haves” and “have-nots,” might soften.
During the summer months, let us take the courageous step to try something new. Let us put our neighborly foot forward and make a change for the better in our community. We can, indeed, become agents of God’s love and justice, if only we will get up, go ahead, move beyond ourselves, and rejoice in God who makes all of this possible.