to love the rich and the poor

June 23, 2008

This summer I somehow stumbled into a job working at a country club–not only a country club, but THE Country Club–and it has been quite the experience. Seeing that my life thus far has been firmly rooted in middle class America, and my attention has largely been turned toward issues that concern the poor and disadvantaged in society and attempts to volunteer in ways that help provide them with things such as food, education, homes, and opportunities, it has been something of a shock to encounter the wealthy people of society. I find myself feeling trapped in this alternate realm of wealth, learning for the first time that kids who stem from money go to their own schools and swim on their own swim teams in their own pools and eat food in their own private restaurants.

I freshly fall under the category of country club staff and have been firmly instructed to greet every member with a large smile and complacently allow them to do mostly whatever they want because they have the money. Although the words of Jesus ring all too loudly in my ears that explain “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:24), it becomes all too easy to regard people who are richer than me as examples of why I’m not the rich man to whom Jesus is referring. I’ve been too guilty of feeling better about myself by pointing fingers at the people who have more money than me.

A couple weeks ago I found this Global Rich List website, which is definitely worth a visit. It asks you to enter your yearly income, and then it highlights where you fall on a scale of wealth that takes the entire population of the world into account. I went ahead and approximated my yearly income. Even though I have yet to attain one of those “real” jobs and my yearly income could best be considered didly (by American standards), I ranked in the top 15% of the richest people in the world.

As I have daily come to contemplate how much a country club membership costs and how much the members spend on food and drinks once they’re at the club, I’ve begun to dream about hoards of homeless people swarming into the country club pool so I could witness a forced clash of two split worlds: startling poverty and deprivation meets shocking affluence and abundance. If each side could only glimpse the face of the other enough to make a drastic difference… perhaps that’s what some of us will spend our lives working toward…

There’s an interesting photography collection that juxtaposes photos of wealth with those of poverty posted on Flickr called “Think Twice.”

“Rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the Maker of them all”

(Proverbs 22:2)

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