As Poor or Rich as We Feel

As I sit here not getting as much done as I had wished, I kind of liked this story which I can’t even claim is true, because I don’t know that it is, but it’s worth reading anyway:

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn’t listen to the radio, we’d save money on that month’s electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives.

It’s a story you’ll want to read, either way.

But here is a story that I know is true. Welcome, Javier!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mimsy

    Well, it felt like a true story…not at all like some of the “glurge” that some people insist on forwarding in emails. And your other story was quite true. I liked both. Thanks, Anchoress. This has been quite a week!

  • materialist

    I am delighted to hear that hundreds were introduced to the Church in Brooklyn. Five were brought into the Church in Leesburg, FL. Two of them were my grandchildren. If anyone in Brooklyn was as happy as I was, I am happy for them.

  • dymphna

    It was one of the best months because they were playing a game. If they’d had to live that way for real they would’be hated it.

  • JuliB

    Dymphna – you must not have clicked the link and read the whole story. SPOILERS****** they were the poor family.

  • Fr John Mack

    These are beautiful stories to add to the powerful accounts of life transformation through the power of Divine Love that this week’s Octave of Easter proclaims in each of our solemnities. Those tens of thousands baptized into Christ and welcomed into Table Companionship with the Risen Christ should shake and astound us who have been at this for awhile, reminding us anew of the transformative power of Paschal Mystery in our own lives and the continuing conversion to which we are all called to daily through our baptism.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I wonder. . . maybe approaching life, with all its troubles, as a game, rather than something grim and awful, is the better way to face it?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    At any rate, this story does show the difference between, “Feeling poor” and “Feeling rich”, and the effect these mental attitudes can have on people!

  • dry valleys

    I would really say that secular material prosperity has advantages which greatly outweigh the problems that may follow in its wake. I do not feel the schizophrenia that religious conservatives must have when they wonder whether wealthy nations go astray. You’ve already got more than enough bigotry & unpleasantry amongst the world’s poor, few of whom are saintly, though they may worship more often than us.

    I am from a fairly modest background by the standards we’re used to. I obviously never starved or walked round barefoot, but I didn’t have holidays, private education, my dad’s mates at the golf club getting me a top job, etc. Yet my forefathers, if they could see the life I had as a child, would call me fantastically wealthy & I would be just that compared to them. Isn’t that the point? For that matter we don’t live like we lived in 1946.

    I was watching the film The White Ribbon (which I’d recommend to anyone) & my friend said he envied the simplicity & purity of that way of life, as much as the relentless hard work wasn’t really his cup of tea. But I just saw the inescapable crushing of living that way. Anyone who didn’t want to be a farm labourer, thought the pastor’s views were made up & shouldn’t be listened to, thought he was a better man than the baron, didn’t much feel like being sexually abused by her father, had no chance. (Apart from those who managed to flee to towns like my forefathers… & that is of course what drove them on) I want to liberate people from having to still live like that. If it means they swear & drop chewing gum on the floor I can live with that.

    But tales like that one do have their place even if I advise against claiming they said all there was to say. You do wonder what the pursuit of riches at all costs achieves. It certainly doesn’t do some people we can all think of much good- in that film, the priviliged as possibly even more miserable than the poor because they have to uphold a vicious system.

    I suppose you have to consider. I have always held the view that people will realise “naturally” that they will learn that investments pay off better than blowing it all today, that people feel better about doing something if effort has been put into it, that immediate pleasure may lead to long-term gried, etc. that these things just suggest themselves to humans.

    I don’t think anything good has come out of the recession apart from ONE thing, which I hope you’ll pardon me for saying. People now understand that being unemployed is not a crime. It has been brought home in households across the land that totally blameless people are often forced to be idle when the jobs market doesn’t go their way. I live in an area of very high unemployment & I was never happy with the way my friends & neighbours were vilified in the Sun, Daily Mail, Telegraph etc. (Though now they are accusing immigrants of taking jobs, & even though I oppose open borders- for my own reasons- I don’t enjoy that) I think it’s a crying shame that it takes this trouble to make people look more compassionately on the workless.

  • dry valleys

    I have spent forever trying to strike the right tone. I’m normally more enraged & abusive on other sites. But I suppose the reason I am soft here is that my actual views on just about every issue under the sun are totally different to yours & those of your friends. Being in a minority tends to stop people being confrontational. Whereas amongst like-minded people I’d care far less about the sensibilities of people who think differently.

  • Robyn

    I am so glad they had so many brought into the Church in Brooklyn. We are in a tiny parish in Northern California and we had 14 total including my husband and myself. My oldest son will be baptized at next year’s Easter Vigil. So far there are only 2 children in his RCIA class, but we are praying for more !

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  • JuliB

    White Ribbons – added to my netflix queue!

    “I have always held the view …” Well – your sentiments are certainly true and something I agree with, however, I have yet to see anyone come to that realization if they aren’t inclined to it already! Furthermore – even the very few that DO come to that realization don’t always (rarely?) succeed in putting it to practice.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Having once lived in a posh, wealthy, OC community, I believe that, yes, the pursuit of riches at any cost is soul destroying.

    I also believe that fervidly embracing the “victim” mentality is also soul destroying. What I like about this story is that this family, though poor, were cheerful, and didn’t wallow in self-pity, or see themselves as “losers”. Also, that they were able to think of others. Being focused on oneself, whether rich or poor, isn’t a recipe for happiness.

    I don’t believe being jobless is a sin (unless, say, you can’t keep a job because you keep robbing your employers—that’s getting into sin territory); I do believe jobs, like good health, nature, food, families, etc., are good things in themselves. (I believe working helps stave off the corrosive victim mentality, as well as the corrosive “I’m rich! I can do whatever I want!” mentality.) I believe a good society encourages people to work, and doesn’t prevent people from going into business, and supporting themselves.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, that is wonderful about the Brooklyn church.


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