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"The Rich Family In Church" Response

I just couldn't pass up sending you this incredible response from a Funnies subscriber to the Rich "Funny." It's very moving and thoughtful. I'd like to thank the author for taking the time to reflect for us.


"The Rich Family In Church" Response
By Rosemarie Eskes

The Rich Family In Church

Original article
Original article in German
  (MS Word file)
• Response
Responses to the response
Update on the author's life
How to help Eddie

[From A Rich "Funny"] We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them.

[Response] We had 6 knives for 11 people, so we did the same. Or, the older ones cut up the younger ones' food. Your story made me cry. This is not the first thing you've sent something that's touched me, but it's the first that's made me cry.

I never lived for a month on potatoes, but I have put cardboard in my shoes. I have been homeless for 3 brief periods. I haven't always been able to afford a phone, even when I needed one for my job.

I never thought of myself as "poor." I was "broke." Today I've spent a long time considering the difference between the two mindsets. I finally think I've got it figured out.

"Broke" is a temporary situation - even if it lasts all your life. It means you have to be careful with what you have, but you can still afford to give. The richest satisfaction comes from working hard to earn something to give away. This is not a platitude; I've done it and it's true.

"Poor" has connotations of hopelessness. It sounds so permanent. You hear of "poor people," but you never hear anyone mention "broke people." That's because being poor is part of your identity. It seems like something you'll never be rid of - as if it's in your genes. The girl in this story considered dropping out of school because what was the use? If you were poor, there was no hope, nothing to look forward to.

In the newspaper you often read about "the poor" as if they are a stable, identifiable group. Like the minister in this story, we assume they know who they are. Despite the occasional welfare-to-successful-career story, we never really expect the poor to have anything better than what they have now. And by labelling them "poor," we pronounce that what they have is not enough. That is, they have nothing and they always will have nothing. That's hopelessness.

I can't accept that label. I wasn't poor even when I furnished my first apartment out of what I could find in roadside trash. I was merely broke. I could live with being broke all those years. I couldn't have lived in poverty for a day.

I am not sure what to do with today's revelation. I may turn it into a speech for my Toastmasters club. I may send it to a newspaper columnist. I may e- mail it to all my friends. It's so real, so vibrant to me, that I want everyone to achieve the same understanding I now have - the one Eddie Ogan received in 1946. I'm not poor, because I have enough. I have Jesus in my heart - this makes me spiritually rich. I have the love of a wonderful husband and many good friends - this makes me emotionally rich. I have never involuntarily gone hungry - thus, if not physically rich I am adequately provided for, and always have been, even during periods of homelessness and/or unemployment.

However, I didn't get to be 43 years old without coming to realize that no matter how immediate, how compelling a point of view is to me, not everyone will understand it. Even if I had this published in the NY Times (like Kazinski's manifesto) many - probably most - readers would not come to understand what I meant. And some who did understand would still not agree. Thinking about this is immensely frustrating.

So I won't contact the NY Times. I'll sit here and contemplate the shock I've received from reading Ogan's story - that for many years I was poor. And rebel against it. Despite the cardboard shoe liners, the trash can provision, the nights of sleeping on the couch of whatever friend would take me in, I wasn't poor. I was merely broke. I didn't always know where my next meal was coming from - but it always came. So I couldn't have been poor. So don't do this to me! Don't say I was poor. I can't live with that.

Copyright 1998 Rosemarie Eskes. Permission is granted to send this to others, but not for commercial purposes.


Do you ever wonder what happened to the lady who read Edie's story and realized she'd been "poor" much of her life ... then wrote you a real-life essay about how she didn't want to be seen as "poor," only "broke"?

Well, that was me, so I know what happened to her. That epiphany, painful as it was, was a huge turning point in my life. I went from reading Edie's story and seeing myself in it ("Hey wait - we had to share knives too ... I put cardboard in my shoes ... I must have been poor!"), to resisting the label ("'Poor' sounds so permanent, so hopeless - I was only broke, even when I was homeless briefly"); to recognizing, as Edie did, that poverty and riches are mostly a state of mind: If you have something to give others, you're rich, no matter what else you do or don't have.

Armed with this revelation, I proceeded to share it. I made several speeches in Toastmasters groups (a community organization), shared with several friends, as well as emailing my thots to you. I received dozens of replies, believe it or not, stretching out for over a year! I even helped some young people who'd been labelled "poor" by an unthinking teacher, to recognize the difference between poor and rich-even-if-you're-broke. One of them went on to win a statewide speech contest with her own revelation about it!

The saga goes on, especially in my own life. As feedback from my speeches and from your publication of my comments poured in from people literally all around the world, for the first time my heart began healing from the low esteem I'd held myself in. Years of verbal abuse and rejection, especially from earthly and spiritual authorities, had taken their toll on an already self-rejecting heart. Despite being a Christian for years, even leading several others to Christ, I felt I was worse than useless in the Kingdom of God; that I was a drain on its resources; that everything I did was inherently wrong; that I had nothing to offer others. When I saw how God was using me to touch people literally a world away, I realized how mistaken I had been. The fact that He has used me to promote inner healing in so many others, brought immense healing to me.

This recognition that God finds me useful has opened the door to tremendous spiritual energy. I have become very eager about offering to pray with, counsel, or just plain listen to those the Lord puts in my path, especially outside the church. I see opportunities everywhere! My efforts to minister are no longer weak and mumbling, but confident and sure that my God wants to be their God; that he is not annoyed by their needs or by my requests that He help them. I also speak with far more conviction (trying not to cross the line into arrogance!) of things I know He is telling me to share - that He can save, that He can heal, that He can deliver, that (like it or not) eventually He will judge. While I don't always embrace controversial subjects, neither do I run from them, since I no longer fear rejection as I did. Not that I like it - but I recognize that it's not from Him. He loves me and is able to use me.

It's impossible to put into words the magnitude of the change God has brought about. "The Rich Family in Church" has made me a rich woman in the Kingdom!

Rosemarie Eskes

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