Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Are You Wealthy?

In the mid-90's I helped resettle Rwandan refugees to the Dayton area. It was one of the most educational and rewarding experiences of my life.

I recall a time when we were working hard to lobby for a particular family to receive the necessary paperwork that would allow them to come. This process took a few years (!) and we anxiously awaited their safe arrival.

My boss at the time saw my uncontained excitement and inquired as to its source. I told her their story and how the day was coming soon when they would *finally* be reunited with their loved ones and begin a new life in a safe place. She paused for a moment and asked, "Well, are they poor?" (The insinuation was that they would come to our country and be a drain on the system.)

I responded that, yes, according to our style of living in a America, they were financially poor. After all, they had been living has refugees, a wife and husband with their six children, in Kenya for several years, during which time they could not work or go to school.

Then I added, however, that back in Rwanda before the war, they had been a well-educated, propserous family. And that I was certain they would come to America and, once assimiliated, contribute fully to our culture, economy, etc. (I found myself wanting to reassure her that they wouldn't be a drain on our system - and that even if they were for a little while - would that be reason enough not to help them? Do we justify helping others come to this country based on what they can DO for us once they're here???)

What I failed to mention at the time, but have since realized, is that money isn't the only measure of someone who is rich or poor. It is true this family was dependent upon others temporarily to meet their needs. However, they were wealthy beyond measure in other ways.

They were rich in:
~their love for each other,
~their incredible stories of survival,
~their emotional determination to not let the tragic losses they had suffered and violence they had witnessed defeat them or determine their future,
~their long heritage of rich Rwandan culture and customs,
~their sense of dignity and respect,
~their measure of gratitude for all the hands who had helped them along the way,
~their love for and trust in a God who continued to provide for them,
~and a myriad of other profound ways that even I wasn't aware of.

So, what is wealth? What does it mean to you to be rich or poor?

Certainly my financial picture has changed with my recent decrease in monetary income. But I know in my heart (and by the smile on my face) that I am much richer today than I was six months ago.

It is time for us to redefine what it means to be wealthy. Somewhere along the way, we've been sold a bill of goods that has screwed up our perspective and priorities. Well, I for one am not buying that any longer! Along with not buying material things - I am choosing not to buy the party line of this country's consumerism and definition of rich vs. poor.

To that end, here's an article by David Korten. I encourage you to check out the folks at Yes! Magazine. They are beacons of light leading the way to a better future for all of us.

Please write and tell me all the ways you find yourself wealthy today.

For peace and prosperity,


GailNHB said...

Today I am wealthy with love in my family.
Wealthy with ten women who came to my journaling class tonight.
Wealthy with great memories of a life well-lived.
Wealthy with friends like you. Wealthy with robust health. Wealthy with joy and peace.
Wealthy with grace, mercy, and love.
Wealthy beyond measure in so many of the things that this culture and country find most valuable.

Earlier today, Kristiana and I were talking about consumerism and cutting back and house size (and about how our house feels too big so much of the time!), and so many things like that. Thanks for giving us more to think about.

I do miss and love you...

Kristiana said...

Wow Lisa, is post really hit home for me!
Like Mom said in her comment, she and I have been talking and thinking about the excess that we as Americans and human beings carry around with us. Recently, I have begun to remember that the things that I treasure the most in life are certainly NOT things. They are people, experiences, memories, NOT things that I can buy with money, but things that I gain through just living my life.
Some of the wealthiest people I know are not living the "big life" in our world's eyes, but to me they are infinitely richer than any millionaire.
Thanks for reminding me of the truth.
Your friend, Kristiana

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