It was in the dimming sunlight of dusk that I had a moment of enlightenment.
I was late for an appointment but lucky enough to find a parking space on a crowded street. Even though I had enough money to pay for the thirty minutes I needed, I didn’t have the right coins to put in the parking meter. There were no shops nearby to ask for change, only people scurrying by.
Bewildered and frantic, I rushed up to a couple and asked if they could exchange my dimes and nickels for two quarters.
“Sorry,” he said, as I felt my racing heart sink.
“But here’s my receipt for forty minutes remaining on my space in the parking lot over there,” he continued.
“How much do I owe you for that?” I asked in disbelief.
“Nothing. Please take it. I’m sure you need it more than we do,” he responded.
In that instant, as I saw the remaining rays of sunset slide below the horizon, I could feel my heart warm with gratitude for Divine Providence. I got more than I asked for, unexpectedly and right on time.
But my “aha moment” didn’t end there.
I made it to my appointment, but the person who I was to meet didn’t show up and my meeting was postponed to another day. I chose not to be disappointed.
My takeaway from all this was that we can get more, even when we don’t need it as there is an inexhaustible supply of everything we need in the Universe!
There is ample evidence that there is more than enough for everyone in this world.
Abundance is more of a problem than scarcity
Oxfam reported that there is enough food to feed the world. In fact the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. The International Federation of the Red Cross reported in 2011 that there are 1.5 billion people worldwide classified as obese. However, 925 million go to sleep hungry every night. I can accept that nutrient-poor foods may be the main contributor to obesity. The truth is that there is more food available in the world than we are led to believe. There is enough and more for everyone. The problem is the inequitable distribution of wealth.
Poverty is being alleviated, but…
The United Nations reports that the international community has made significant strides towards lifting people out of poverty, with extreme poverty rates cut in half since 1990. However, the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income and the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.
Persistent poverty is real. Breaking generational cycles of poverty continues to be elusive.
The divide between those who have more and those who have less or nothing at all is widening. This is happening in spite of the myriad people, initiatives and organizations undertaking projects to alleviate poverty. Throughout the year, I receive all kinds of requests for donations ranging from money to build vital infrastructure to gifts in kind such as food, clothing and Christmas gifts.
Giving the excess from those who have to those who don’t have, doesn’t always bridge the divide
There are many willing volunteers who want to help, but they lack the knowledge and skills required to be effective. I’ve heard stories about water wells that don’t work after the foreign aid workers have left; poorly built walls that have to be redone; and gift toys that children have no clue about how to use.
Too often the gifts and donations of the “haves” do not empower the “have nots.”
A constant stream of donations disempowers people and creates dependency on others. In my own experience, most people in need want to develop their talents, find sustainable employment and become self-sufficient to support their families.
None of this darkens the revelations of my “aha moment.”
Religious teachings about prosperity
Some Christian religious denominations glorify poverty as an honourable spiritual and material state that is sanctified by God. There are others who teach a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that excessive financial wealth and excellent health are always in the will of God.
I don’t find either of these approaches to be satisfactory as they can be used to oppress people in one way or another.
On one hand, glorifying poverty leads people to passively accept poverty and deprives them of the opportunity to make the required effort to achieve financial independence and a better standard of living. On the other hand, those who do not achieve financial success or are in ill-health may be led to believe that they are inadequate, sinful or not following God’s will.
While I don’t believe that God intends anyone to live in poverty and that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to have as much as we want and more, I believe that social justice has to be the guiding principle in the quest for personal and collective prosperity.
Social justice bridges poverty to prosperity
The inexhaustible resources of the Universe are available to all of us. It’s our commitment to social justice that will bridge the divide between poverty and prosperity. Just like the man who offered me the parking receipt with the excess time he didn’t need, we should always think of ways in which we can use what we have and don’t need more of, to enable and empower others to get to a better place.
Christ in you, the hope of glory. That’s why glory matters!