How I Left Christianity Part Four: Poverty
February 18, 2012 7 Comments
My family wasn’t rich.
For the most part, as a child, I didn’t realize it. So sometimes the electricity was shut off. During the summer, that meant open windows letting the fresh breeze in at night. In the winter, it meant evenings spent around the fire, roasting marshmallows and playing boardgames by candlelight. Cool! It meant getting to go to work with Papa Beemer on Saturdays, playing with my brother in the steelyard, or drawing buildings on HUGE pieces on paper, just like Daddy.
No big deal, right? Other kids didn’t get to do that stuff with their parents. But wait–they got to go on vacations. Photos of beaches in Florida. Hiking in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Why didn’t we get to do that? How come my friend’s parents aren’t inviting me? They’ve invited all the other girls. That was only every once in a while though.
My best friend’s family was like mine–they weren’t rich, either. She had lots of siblings. At one point, they were having a hard time. Momma Beemer took my brother and I to the grocery, and we filled up two carts of food. Later that day, my best friend, her siblings, and her mother came over to pick up the food. Us kids enjoyed the visit–dashing back and forth from my kitchen to their van, running around the front yard. But I noticed the expression on my mom’s face–and the expression on my best friend’s mother’s. Understanding on one, and relief on the other. I couldn’t name the expressions at the time–I only noticed that the two women seemed very close at that moment, closer than they’d ever been before. It confused me.
That day repeated itself a couple of times a month for a while, and then without any remarkable event marking it, it stopped.
It wasn’t long before it started again–only in reverse. My best friend and her family were bringing food to us. The children were bounding back and forth with bulging white bags, while the two women spoke together. I saw the expressions on their faces, and was drawn to them. As I got closer, I got that feeling from Momma Beemer that children get from their parents sometimes: this is an adult conversation. Go away. I went.
Sometimes, at church, the pastor would speak after the worship service about a family in need. A relative was sick, and needed to pay for surgery. A man was laid off, and he needed help to feed his family and pay the bills while he looked for another job.
I wondered a bit why the pastor never asked the congregation for help when my family needed it. But my family didn’t go to church–only me. I wondered more why the church never helped my best friend and her family. Every time the doors were open, my best friend’s family was there. Her mother, and all the children attended faithfully–every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night–for choir, for musicals, for Vacation Bible School, for all the other fellowships and Bible studies, they were there. They worked hard for the church–to learn and grow spiritually, to help spread the Word–they did it all. It made me angry.
What was so different about my best friend’s family? Why didn’t our brothers and sisters in Christ help them?
Was it because her dad wasn’t a deacon? Was it because her dad didn’t come to church very much?
At the time, I couldn’t answer that question. Years later, I can.