Broke Not Poor

Poverty, poor, welfare class.  I grew up that way.  I lived that way for a while until at 25 I decided that I wasn’t going to cooperate with poverty any more.  I broke free.

There was that time in ’08.  I was technically homeless.  I blamed it on my divorce, which I blamed on me.  I was unemployed. I blamed that on the recession.  It was a short time, relatively speaking, but seemed to last forever.  On the other side of that brief period of time I was no longer unemployed or homeless. I was a successful craftsman and business owner.  My family was well cared for and we even went out of town for long weekends at Great Wolf Lodge. Life was good.

I married my best friend.  I guess I am lucky that way.  She too had been through financial hard times. She told me that being poor was a state of mind, while being broke was a state of finances.  That made sense to me.  I let those words sink into my brain. I embraced all that it meant.  I can point to both in my past, poor and broke. Sometimes they  came at the same time. Other times I may have had money and been poor, or been broke and been rich.

Perhaps it is because I was forgetting where I came from.  Maybe it was the human tendency to judge others.  At some point, though I had compassion, i became aloof from those who were broke or poor.  I felt that somehow it was always their choices that led them into that state. I felt as if it was always somehow their own fault.

I left a very successful business to move to an area that was financially disadvantaged. Maybe even poor in some regards.  People thought I had lost my mind. I couldn’t tell why I was led, but I can point to several markers that indicated it was Divine leading that brought me to this place. Then it happened. I became broke. It brought me back to some realities. My financial difficulties were largely brought on by the choices of other people, and not necessarily honest ones. I had not protected myself or my family from such events. Does that mean it was my fault?

To be honest, I have placed several things in motion that will prevent me from being broke.  I thought they would activate before things got to this point, but there is a 90% likelihood that they will activate and I will stop being broke.  I see an end.  But in the middle it is hard to see the end. At least it’s that way for me. And, I may be broke, but I am rich in so many ways.  If you want to know how, read some more of my blog.

Leaving my business and moving to the mountains brought a great deal of relief. There was relief from the long work weeks, the relief from dealing with contractors that all had some problem or another preventing them from doing what they agreed to do, and relief from the stress that comes with handling large sums of money and being responsible for so many lives.

Being broke comes with stress too.  I guess I forgot that.  There is the stress of having to count the items in your grocery cart and putting things back in order to fit into your tiny budget.  There is the stress of phone call after phone call from people wanting their money.  There is the stress of letter after letter threatening legal action. There is the stress of looking at a wife who has been used to having enough to not have to count to see if there was enough.  There are the late fees that add up that if you could afford you wouldn’t have been late in the first place.  All of that stress is real.  I don’t get to go home and try to forget it in the evening like I used to.  It never leaves me or goes to sleep.It is awake every moment that I am.

My time of being broke will come to an end.  I am looking forward to it. It was and is very painful. I don’t know about you, but I  really prefer pain free.  That said, however, I am committed to never wasting a pain.  If I have to feel it I want some advantage from it, so I am letting it teach me.  I think that the lessons here are not how to never be broke, or how to protect yourself from unscrupulous dealings.  I am pretty sure the lesson is more on how I look at others who are going through it. Maybe some of them cannot see an end like I can.  What keeps them going? How can I add hope to their lives.  I think the lesson is more about who I am than what I have.

I think that going forward I am going to be more likely to pay for the groceries of the mom in front of me who is counting out her change.  I think I am going to be more patient with that guy who is yelling at people for no apparent reason, but is carrying a load on his back invisible to the human eye.  I think I am going to try to love even more, and even better, those who cannot ever return the blessing. I can probably think of a number of ways my pain is going to instruct my future.

So please don’t send money.  I am, in some odd way, grateful that I am broke.  It reminded me to be more like Jesus.  We are, after all, His hands and feet here and now. It reminded me that God is my source, even during those times when it seems like I am.  It reminds me that faith is an easy word to say, harder to live.  It reminded me of what it means to love well.

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