The poor have time, and the rich have money.
I’ve been thinking about the above statement for some time (it was in a devotional I read, as well as hinted at the movie God Grew Tired of Us and the book What Is the What), and my trip to the Philippines was a confirmation of sorts. It’s certainly a generality to say that all poor people are living unhurried lives while struggling for money, and that all rich people are busy while making loads of money, but I think there’s an element of truth to the gifts of being poor and rich, respectively.
Either way, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side, and it’s difficult to fully grasp the value of time and money if we don’t have it…. and if we do have it.
When we were in the Philippines, we saw some poverty. I mean, I was actually shocked at some of the living quarters that housed up to 15. There were unpaved, muddy roads, no discernible bathrooms, and malnourished children and adults. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I saw certainly did not fit my Western expectations. I didn’t expect the neighborhood to be as poor as it was. When it dawned on me that this is the neighborhood in which Rick and Jiji chose to live, I was flabbergasted.
But man, the people and children in Nangka have so much JOY. They love to tell stories, explore nature, tell jokes, to laugh and sing. There was so much LIFE flowing out of the families. I think it’s safe to say that every single one of our team members came away grateful and encouraged by how loving and giddy the Filipinos were despite their outward circumstances.
One example of this is G1:27’s head tutor, Leonila. She lived in a small shack on the edge of a dried up river bed with her large family, and yet, she was one of the most hard-working, bright, sweet, and godly women we met. Amazing.
Part of the Filipinos’ presence is captivating because they have loads of time to hang out, play in the street, and chill with their families. We couldn’t help compare our circumstances to theirs – we lived full, driven, protected lives, while the lives of the Filipinos are generally relaxed, family-centered, and joyful.
But that doesn’t mean these families don’t want or need money. Of course they do, and sometimes to a fault. But as an outsider looking in, I wanted to say, “You have something absolutely beautiful here.” There’s a context in which God can really take root and be noticed and cherished in some of the simple things in life – food, shelter, family, and friendships.
Meanwhile, we were rich, and we felt it. Some kids joked at how fat I was (not in a mean way). I could spend $3/day and have an absolute feast of rice, pork, halo halo, and one hour at the internet cafe.
Sure, there’s relative poverty and wealth when one goes to other countries, but I definitely didn’t come away from the Philippines thinking, “I’m so poor!”
Instead, I came away thinking, I have it good.
But there’s a way that God gets lost in all that I have here and in all that I do here. In fact, the common refrain I hear from people in NYC is “I’m so busy”.
The whole capitalistic, western mind-set pushes one toward busy-ness, often to a fault. In fact, our greatest virtues – working hard, generating wealth/jobs, innovation – can also be our greatest curse, because we’re left without time for contemplation, family, and joy.
And when it comes down to it, I still want to live in the physical, material comfort of the West over the inconvenience and somewhat dirty surroundings of the poor – and I think impoverished folks do too. After all, like I mentioned on Sunday, little girls still die for lack of $50 in poor communities.
But we don’t fully know what we’re missing. And we don’t know the cost of losing so much time and so much contemplation until we’ve lost it.
Ultimately I’m grateful for people like Rick and Jiji who bridge these communities. I hope New Life Fellowship can be such a community that connects the poor to the rich, and the rich to the poor, teaching each other the value of time and money in the process.