I am sitting at my desk, typing at a computer that was purchased for me as a graduation present. On my lap is my newborn son, grown for nine hard months inside my amazing wife. On my desk are three books that my employers have purchased for me. On my desk also is a printer that the generosity of my neighbors has recently afforded me. I sit on a chair that I carried upstairs from where it was abandoned by the salon next door to my apartment. My desk was set up for me for free by an old friend. Near me is a piano that my old roommate is letting me store for him, that I will play as if it were my own. Also near me are a car seat, swing, a pack-and-play, a couch, a cedar chest, and a high chair– all given to us for free or (in one case) below retail value. In our bedroom, my wife sleeps on a mattress that was a wedding gift. In my fridge are leftovers from meals brought to us by friends.
Outside the apartment is a wall so beat up that I can get a workout by practicing racquetball against the wall without worrying about anyone caring if I scrape the wall. In the other direction is a bus that would take me to the local university for free, where I have access to exercise equipment, a more proper racquetball court, legal materials for my work, many of my friends and two of my siblings, ready-made food of all sorts, entertainment, a world-class library, and every office supply I could ever dream of needing. In my mailbox is the latest in a series of checks that help me provide financially for my family by arriving at just the right time.
In my heart is a memory of God’s hand in bringing me to this apartment: unexpected perfectly timed financial benefits that pointed towards life in the town that my wife and I love most being sustainable. My heart also carries the memory of the idea that my wife had that she should try for a Masters and the unexpected benefits to my job by us moving close to the local university.
I gain three lessons from this. One lesson comes straight from the Bible which teaches, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33, NIV). My wife and I are far from perfect, but we can see the Lord’s hand in our lives clearly despite our imperfections. It also says that we should help others gain greater faith in God so they can be blessed by his promises more than we ourselves are.
I also learn that socioeconomic class can raise quality of life even without spending money. The material goods and services I mentioned above undoubtedly are worth thousands and thousands of dollars, and yet I doubt my wife and I have spent more than $500 to acquire them. These goods have come because of our relationship with others who are very fortunate in society today. This lesson has profound implications for how we should empathize with and reach out to others who lack these connections bestowed upon us by class.
But even setting this aside, the third lesson is that no one is an island. All mankind benefits from each other. Fathers, mothers, siblings, friends—we all play a role in each others’ lives. In short, the following is true of all mankind:
“We build on foundations we did not lay
We warm ourselves by fires we did not light
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant
We drink from wells we did not dig
We profit from persons we did not know.”– Rev. Peter Raible