Saturday, January 17, 2009

This one's a toughie

What would you do if you made 100 times more money than everyone around you?

Would you get new friends? Upgrade them, so to say? Continue on as business as usual - act like there's no difference and blithely ignore your friend's neccessities? Or would you give extravagant gifts, subconciously trying to elevate everyone else?

And how do you think your current social circle would treat you? The same? Or would they feel funny, suddenly uncomfortable with your very prescence - let alone accepting presents or acts of service? Or perhaps the opposite - suddenly mere acquantainces become your best friends, appearing out of the woodwork asking for money "because you can afford it."

This is what I live with every day.

We are a thoroughly middle class American family. But here, we're millionaires.

There is a lady in our ward - we'll call her Maria, because she's Brazilian and they're all called Maria Something. Actually, you've heard of her. So Maria was just recently baptized in October. This past Wednesday night her heavily drugged husband held her and her three children hostage at knife-point. He beat them up, destroyed the house, and tried to rape Maria's fifteen-year-old daughter. He finally fell asleep about 4:30AM and they ran away. He's now on the lam.

And all four are now staying at our house.

I want to give this woman the world. I started small - steak and potatoes last night, plus rice (because you have to feed Brazilians rice at every meal or they'll DIE) and broccoli. They'd never even seen broccoli before and wouldn't touch it. I tried to make up for it by breaking out the ice cream and we rocked out on Guitar Hero as well. We played in the pool. We brought out the train set and chocolate milk for their four-year-old boy and talked soccer with the twelve-year-old boy. We tried to do everything thinkable and unthinkable to make them forget their troubles for a few short hours and feel just a teeny bit at home.

But they were so uncomfortable that it made me uncomfortable.

Maria wouldn't let her children touch anything. Play with anything. Have seconds of anything. All she would talk about is not wanting to be a burden and wanting to leave as soon as possible. She ooooohed and aaaaawed over the monstrosity that is my house (compared to hers anyway - her whole house would fit in my kitchen) and hypothesized about my electricity bill. (She has two lightbulbs in the whole house. When she can afford it.) She made me feel like having money is a sin.

I wanted to ... apologize for the fact that we're wealthy. I feel like I need to prove to everyone, over and over again, that I'm still a normal human being. That just because I know where my next meal is coming from doesn't mean I don't have problems. Or feelings. Or that I'm any different than the next Jane. (Or Maria.) But truth is, people look at me and think I am female dog. (Ahem.)

The truth is, I know I'm not better than she is in any way. We're sisters, of absolutely equal value in the eyes of the Lord. And there's no way I'm letting any sister of mine get killed in the middle of the night - or starve. I want to strip my house and give it to her in a pretty box. And not think anything of it. Because that's what being a fellow human being is all about.

But she doesn't think of me as a human being.


Kristina P. said...

That's such a rough situation. You are a wonderful person and she is lucky to have you.

I think that all you can do is be Christlike and kill her with kindness. You shouldn't apologize for the fact that you have money. As long as you don't flaunt it and rub it in people's faces and make them feel bad about themselves, then it's OK. And clearly, you give where you can.

President Benson gave a talk about pride, and how it can manifest itself in looking down on others, being boastful, etc., but it can also manifest itself by looking up, and being jealous, envious, etc. Neither one is good.

Anway, this was a long comment, but I sympathize with you.

Erin said...

Man, that is difficult. I don't know what I would do. Pray for her. Wow. I'm pretty much speechless. Just give her love, and hope (and pray) for the best.

Sarah said...

Give her what you have and then it's up to her if she takes it. Don't feel guilty. Be thankful for what you have. You ARE amazing, I can say that without reserve, and quite human last time I checked :)

Brooke said...

I'm with the other girls. Give what you can, and if she wants to accept it, that is up to her. Good for you for doing that thus far. I can see that you're trying to take their minds off their situation, and I think that is a good thing. They probably don't realize how much they need it. You are such a good person.

Shauna said...

Hope you have a beautiful weekend! ♥ Hugs :)

The Farmer's Wife said...

You are beyond adorable! I love your view of the world....and yes I have a very similar view living here in Mexico....You just wrote about my life! My husband is the Stake President here and well....let's just say I understand TOTALLY! Thanks for stopping by....I have a feeling, I will be back to see you...OFTEN! Un Abrazo, my sister in Brazil!

wonder woman said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love yours. I love the way you write and what you write about and your passion for motherhood.

Katrina said...

Wow. What a truly interesting situation to be in. So few of us here in the states really get how rich we are compared to the rest of the world. Even as "poor" students we have SO SO much comparatively. All you can do is give and serve and be kind. Don't be too hard on yourself. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job.

heidizinha said...

i feel like we get that here...and we make not that much more than everyone else. but we're younger, so obviously we're too good...or something.

i've always HATED how people judge according to what you make or don't make.

and all i think you can do is exactly what you did. just keep trying, and loving.

Annette Lyon said...

I don't think I'd change up my friends (I have a hard enough time MAKING them in the first place!) but I imagine a lot of money would do exactly what you described--make OTHERS react differently to you.

I've experience a teeny tiny drop of this--our current ward has a section of older, rather small houses. Our home is significantly bigger than theirs (although not huge), and I've gotten snide comments from a lot of people about how rich we much be, or how we live in a mansion (which is a totally laughable delusion). It hurts, especially when they assume I look down on them, so THEY look down on me.

But your situation is far worse. I hope Maria can eventually see past it and see YOU.

Becky said...

That is a toughie!

The best thing I can think of is to just show her unconditional love. Help her to your heart's content and the rest is up to her.

Lara said...

I served my mission in Romania, and it was so similar to that. Very rough situation, but I think you're doing the right thing. It's up to her to be humble enough to accept your service and offers to help.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I think it's so interesting that in the 3rd world, there is almost NO middle class. There are hords and hords of dirt-poor people, and a handful of rich-rich (and often corrupt) people, so it's very awkward to try to fit into a typical middle-class type situation. I'm so impressed with Kristina because she said what I was going to say about the pride of looking up from a lower place. You have offered kindness and service (kind of like King Benjamin said, "If I had, I would give..." and you did!) But others have to be humble enough to receive it without being bitter. The only suggestion that I have would be to express your feelings as honestly as you can in your next "situation," something like "I'm sorry you feel uncomfortable to be here, but you are my sister and we are equals. Please let me help you because I can and because I want to. It hurts my feelings when you don't want to accept my help." I don't know... You're right, it's a tough one.

::Jan:: said...

Such a situation of trying to help, but being sort of rejected for helping. I can't imagine how it must feel.

I hope that they will understand that you are blessed to be able to help her. That you don't feel any better than them and that when you go back to America, you will be poor again. Joking on the last part but you know what I mean.

Just stay how you are. Christlike and willing to serve.

Quote came to mind- People won't remember what you did or what you have, but they will remember how you made them feel.

See, it's all good.

Jen said...

I've leaned toward both these sides at different times throughout my life, and honestly, neither one is much fun. The thing to remember is that if someone is uncomfortable around you (for either reason) despite your efforts to "be normal" and Christlike, it's really their problem. Easy to say, hard to do, but very true all the same. Somehow, you just have to make peace with what you have (or haven't) got, and disassociate yourself with how other people feel about it. Sounds to me like you're already in the right place yourself, and unfortunately there really is nothing more you can do about them.

So, yeah... Good luck with that:)

in time out said...

wow. that is a tough one. i can understand the having to explain yourself out of the niceties that you have. it is very uncomforatable. YOU NEED TO KNOW that it is NOT bad for you to have money. Sometimes people in tough situations are in them because that is the Lords will for them. and that if they want out, they have to work it out. so if this sounds bad sorry.

I just really feel for you because that is a tough one. mine is usually beccause my house looks clean. in reality it is not, and very cluttered. but because i don't let anyone inside more than the entry way they think it is clean

you are being kind to help them, i am so sorry that they are uncomforatable but it is not yours to deal with. just pray and turn it over to him and do what you feel you can. if they don't accept help or they act weird they need to go back to what they are use to...hard as it is.

my mom is homeless right now. i could easily take her im telling too much...but i wanted you to know that i don't speak like this just to rant...i feel for you.

okay...i will come back to check on you later. take care and be well with yourself. you are a good person.

emily and Nate said...

I saw you on mormon mommy blogs, I really loved reading your blog and hope you don't mind if I stop in again. Good Luck with your current situation. You will be making a difference in her and her childrens life even if you don't see it right now.

Anonymous said...

You are being so kind! I hope that you don't mind a lurker popping in to say something. Maria is probaby very confused and scared right now, and probably feels like she doesn't deserve anything. It's all overwhelming for her. Send her my love and tell her that there are people all over the world praying for her to make it through this rough time. After some time she will probably feel more comfortable around you and everything.

Claire said...

at least you have the mindset of wanting to help this woman! It's important that those that have, give... even those that don't think they have, can always be giving in another way.

anyway. that was about as much righteous as you're going to get out of me on a Sunday.

Thanks for coming by my blog!

Floyd said...

So - I've been in the same situation. I'm interested in the follow-up with your conclusion.

Each person is different and will react to our desire to share with them in a different way. I'm a person who doesn't particularly enjoy the charity of others. It's hard for me to just say thank you and accept help.

Stick with King Benjamin's advice. Be chartiable but don't worry what other people think.

We do as much of our charitiable giving as anonomously as we possibly can.

JustRandi said...

Wow, you have very wise readers!!
I think you're doing all the right things. The only other thing I could think would be to just ask her, "if it were the other way around, wouldn't you help me? Then let me help you."

I don't know.
But I think you're doing a great job!

Mommadj5 said...

Hey sweetie - I guess I haven't seen your blog in a couple of days - missed a couple of posts! Wow - I love this one and the comments. Such loving, Christlike friends. Remind (gently, lovingly) Maria that the Lord is blessing her THROUGH YOU!!! He HAS to use his agents (us) here on earth to accomplish His purposes. This happened to me once when I was in college - broke and with no way to pay my rent. My boyfriend's (at the time) father tried to give me the rent money which I stubbornly refused to accept, saying that the "Lord will bless me - I pay my tithing and I have faith". To which he replied - "and HOW do you think the Lord will bless you if not through me? I felt inspired to pay your rent - don't you wonder why?" Ummm....duh.....I was so humbled. You are a loving, giving person and she will understand eventually. Please PLEASE be careful of the husband and what might happen if he knows where they are.....I will pray for you guys. Love you - Mom

janel said...

Wow. Once you visit (or live in) a third world country it's hard to feel the same about wealth. You summed it up perfectly.