Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Poor Little Rich Girl

One of the most confusing things about our life here is that we don’t have much company in our “class” group, financially speaking. To most of our church friends, we are rich beyond belief. That we can afford to pay rent for the home we have, where we have it, and eat out once in a while, and buy our food in a supermarket, is quite the wonder for them, and sometimes it creates a barrier. They don’t always look very relaxed in our home, and few think of returning the invitation to their more humble homes (for many of them, this consists of a small rented room). I think about wealthy friends we have back in the States, who never seem to be able to leave behind everyone else’s consciousness that they have money, and I understand them in a new way.

At the same time, we meet and interact daily with the upper class. Many of them have children in our school, and we are aware of the difference. Those who own a house or apartment, really own it—only recently has Peru started to develop a practice of giving home loans. At Peruvian birthday parties (for the little ones), the conversation is of trouble with the hired help, in which private school you were able to win a space for your 3-year-old, and international business travel. The moms are not combing the internet for low-cost recipes (low-fat, maybe), and dress to impress (this last one is more Latina than upper class—they just wear their best when going out, even when it is just for a little kid party).

In terms of shared life experience, it can be a little difficult to arrive at the easy sort of relationship that I have with friends back home—educated, but not above financial struggle, able to enjoy many little indulgences (a trip to Burger King once in a while, buying the good lunch meat, a nice little party for your child), but still aware of the need to be careful with resources, and completely relying on God to make a way for our kids to go to college. (Only four years away!!)

The other night, Bill and I were returning from a Bible study late at night, and our two guards (of the apartment building) were chatting. I frequently greet one of these friends in the evening with the traditional Peruvian cheek-to-cheek peck in the air, as he is a brother in the faith and a dear friend. The reason I don’t greet him this way during the day is that there is a work and cultural barrier between us during the day, in which that could be seen as breaking the class rules, and thus making everyone in the vicinity extremely uncomfortable, including my guard friend. This particular evening, Bill greeted both warmly, and I did likewise, with the peck in the air. The brother in the Lord was fine with that, but the other guard about fell over, and laughed very nervously. It was clear that that was NOT the norm.

Maybe part of our role here is to demonstrate to our friends in both classes that they are not as different from each other as they imagine—to be a sort of bridge. To place greater honor on our friends who know exactly what it means to live by faith, and at the same time, to be humble enough to share what we have openly with our prosperous friends (as well as the riches we have in Christ), even though it is less than what they are accustomed to.
To live this way confuses this poor little rich girl, but it seems to me a good fit. I understand what it is like to grow up watching the Lord provide daily bread (not everyone in the States is rich!), but was privileged to obtain a college education and buy (start paying for!?) a home in a good school district. And as long as the Lord is in it, I am content to live in this confusing world of rich, poor, and something in between.

1 comment:

00 said...

Great thoughts...gave me a lot to chew on :)