I live in one of the most expensive areas in the country. It’s a struggle to live here, especially on a single income. If I told you how much we are making, you’d probably say (depending on where you live) “Why would that be a struggle?” but that is precisely why this area is difficult. Everything is expensive here. Just a few weeks ago it was published that San Jose (one city over from my Santa Clara) is the first city in the country to have an average home cost of $1 Million. Can you believe that? 1 Million dollars!! When I was a kid I pictured a mansion in Beverly Hills costing $1 Million, not some three bedroom house in a suburb of San Jose. (Remember the movie Blank Check, look what he did with $1 Mil)
The cost of living is so extreme that it puts financial stress on everyone, but especially on members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who believe that having a parent stay home to raise children is ideal (not true for all, just a generalization). Matt and I have had many conversations weighing the pros and cons of me getting a job and just paying for daycare, but we both always leave the conversation feeling strongly that at this time I should be at home with our son. Believe me, there’s been plenty of days that I question why this is the answer we have since going to a job sounds like a much easier, more enjoyable life than spending all day with a toddler who can barely say Milk (“meel” is close, buddy, but not quite there yet).
With that said, I’m completely dumbfounded by the number of people in the LDS church here who blatantly refuse to acknowledge how much of a struggle this area can be for other people (even some in their same ward). I get it, you’re privileged. You probably have a rich parent who helped with your down payment for your million dollar house, or maybe they paid for your school tuition, left you debt free, and able to save all your money for a down payment, or maybe they died and left you with a huge trust fund, or it might even just be that they provided you with the opportunities to make the connections that would lead to you getting a job in Silicon Valley.
(To be honest and fair, Matt received a large inheritance from his grandfather that has allowed us many privileges and blessings, I’ll never deny that we are some of the most privileged ones).
But whatever the case, you are privileged (#blessed, in your words) and I’m addressing this blog post to you because it is time you at least acknowledge the struggles of others. (There are also many members of the church in this area who are not like this at all, and obviously this post isn’t directed at them.)
How can you go into the barrios of San Jose and see how families are living on top of each other three people deep to be able to stay in the area? Do you simply not notice the hordes of homeless people in downtown San Jose? How can you hear that a minimum wage annual salary is $21,000 and not understand how people are literally slaves to their wages? How can you check out with your unnecessarily expensive Whole Foods groceries and not wonder how the cashier probably has to work at least two jobs just to afford rent in his one bedroom apartment and tuition at a state school?
I’m troubled by the lack of empathy that is claimed to be naiveté. I’m worried for the children who will grow up here and think some people just deserve to be trapped in their socioeconomic status because they didn’t have the right parents or go to the right schools.
If we truly are members of Jesus Christ’s church, I suggest we think and act more like He would.
16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27 ¶Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
It’s a lot He’s asking for, “sell that thou hast, and give to the poor”. In fact, it’s so much that the man in the story turns away, not being able to bear the thought of giving away all that he has. Sometimes when I’m going through my closet trying to make room to hang up a new shirt, I find myself thinking of this story and having to check myself. “Would I give all of this away for the poor?”
I spent some of my most formative years in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in the world. I realize that not everyone had the experiences I did of seeing how much a person who has nothing sacrifices for their families so let me tell you of it. I once taught a woman who informed me that she couldn’t afford to feed her children because her husband squandered all of the money she made working in a field on alcohol. She then informed me the only way she could provide for them was by performing oral sex for money and keeping the money secret from her husband. Tears rolled down her face and mine as I looked at her and told her that I knew that if she would trust in the Lord and follow His commandments He would provide her with a way to feed her children. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I lay in my bed praying that the Lord is helping fulfill that promise.
We aren’t living on Earth to have the most fun, earn the most money, have the nicest things. We’re here to learn Christlike characteristics and oftentimes that involves some degree of struggle, for some that means doing all that is possible to pay the bills. All of this is done so that we can return to the mansions that are promised to us if we live obediently as disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you’re blessed financially, like I am, I’m pretty sure the main struggle in our lives is to learn how to sell all that “thou hast and give to the poor” (or at least acknowledge their struggles).
In writing this post, I’ve come to the conclusion that I still have a long way to go until I fully understand this scripture…which leaves me feeling a lot like this Bobby Hill gif