From the Field

Poverty, wealth and toilets

Today I come to you with my greatest interior struggle between poverty and wealth.

I came to Cross through a mission trip to Santa Rosa, Guatemala and after returning I have struggled to find my place in our society.

Recently we had a mission report on Ethiopia which hit me hard. When I need to use the restroom I get to stay in the comfort and privacy of my home. I also have a toilet seat that is motion censored and will warm up as I enter the room. It also will rinse and I can use 6 different settings for position, oscillate or pulsate. I can also select air dry and it will blow warm air on my bum. Why am I sharing these very personal details? Well when I saw the conditions in Ethiopia and the residents there having to relieve themselves in plastic bags and walk through town and drop it in a hole. This broke my heart. After the update I cried in my office. How can some people live in hell and I live so blessed. But then I panic. The words from Luke 16:25 come to mind

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

Have I received my Earthly reward? Am I living as Christ created me to live?

Am I greedy? Each vice has a corresponding virtue and the vice avarice (greed) is conquered with the virtue, knowledge. Because of God’s goodness I have been given this knowledge by coming to work for Cross. By understanding how truly blessed we are and what really matters.

Pope Leo the 13th wrote a lot about wealth in his encyclical Rerum Novarum

“But when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over”

In other words once you have met your needs for your standing, everything else belongs to the poor.

This begs the question, “What are my basic needs and what is excessive? A boat? A beach condo? A remodeled kitchen? Sometimes it takes almost everything just to make ends meet.

I dream of updating my kitchen and my friends will say to me “you need to update your kitchen” but do I? Is it a need? I have a stove that doesn’t put smoke into my home, a faucet that gives me as much water as I want which even runs through a reverse osmosis filter. I have a 2 fridges that keep my food cold and a walk in pantry that today has more food in it than most families eat in a year.

I am the queen of rationalizing my choices. I love the Lord, I try to be generous but I have not sold everything I own and gave it to the poor. My priest says I don’t need too, but is that us just trying to feel better about ourselves. I feel the Lord has put this longing and knowledge in my heart for a reason and I would be remiss not to acknowledge it and act on it somehow.

If anyone has been to Guatemala you may have met Umbelina. She is an amazing women. She lived with a dirt floor, ministered to her entire village and prayed that I would be blessed. I often catch myself thinking, what Umbelina would think of me if she came to visit. Would see the intentions or the excess?

Another obstacle I am faced with is that my husband and teenagers do not have the same intimate knowledge of the poor that I have. My children do not ask me for a lot but there are times when they want a certain pair of shoes so the other kids don’t make fun of them. Or when we leave someone’s beautiful home they are so impressed by their material possessions. I tell him it’s not the size of the home that matters but the size of the heart and you can never tell the size of the heart.

As of yet, I have not reconciled these feelings. It is a daily cross in which I have to constantly ask myself, “Am I being a good steward of God’s blessings?”