We always have enough, and we’re happy

“Are we rich or poor?” my 5-year-old asks this question out of the blue.

“We’re neither. We’re rich in some ways and we’re poor in some ways,” is my response. “We have enough money to buy groceries and pay bills, so we have just enough.”

And she, who loves to hear about my childhood, asks me: “When you were a kid, were you rich?”

“No, we were poor. My mom and my dad were divorced,” and we pause so I can explain that one again, “and so we didn’t have a lot of money.”

This fascinates her in a way I can’t reach, because I’m not sure where it comes from; she’s not worried, just curious. My 5-year-old reads the newspaper, and she asks about the boy we sponsor in Guatemala. She knows we serve at homeless shelters where people need help. She’s figuring something in her head, and it’s beautiful, disarming, alarming.

But I downplay it, because though I want her to realize the struggle to get to our next step — especially that it’s difficult for us as parents to have Dad work two jobs now — I don’t want money to be this thing in our lives that steal our time and attention from our dreams.

I don’t want us to talk about it so much, which is why we’re myopically focused on paying off our remaining, imposing school loan. Today I was praying about two heavy bills that came in this month, and I shared this with my mom, the way this means our debt-free living is pushed back a bit.

This journey is unsexy, you know that, right? The road to living simply — untied to school debts and just loving our common man — is laden with realities. But God’s here, even in this.

Mom knows. And I know, because I watched her learn that.

“When I got remarried, he looked at what I made and what my bills were, and he said ‘I have no idea how you did it,’ and I said, ‘I have no idea how I did it either! Mathematically speaking, it was impossible.’ I shouldn’t have had enough money to survive. I don’t know how I did it,” she said. {If ever you want your heart to break, picture a mom wondering whether to buy milk or bread. That image sears into my brain when I consider loving someone like our common man looks a lot like loving someone like my mom, circa 1994.}

And it’s that: that moment when we can say “I don’t know how I did it,” that we can know the help from family and strangers was divine providence, too.  Ebeneezer moment.

So, that I’ve spent a few hundred words on money illustrates the reality: I don’t want to talk about money, but there’s an earthly cost to all this, so when I don’t talk about money, it can give the illusion that this is easy or that we’re not humanly bothered by heating bills. We are.

But. We’re trying.

I offer an unsettling illustration from “The Long Loneliness”: Dorothy Day speaks of Father Roy, who said whatever you need, ask God. If you needed, he said, $100 for a train ticket, ask for $100. If you get $25, tell God that’s not enough and give it all away — sow it. If you get $50, do the same; $75, likewise, all the way until you get $100. God will provide you with what you need. What you need might not be cash — but maybe the train would’ve crashed anyhow, he said. Only God knows what you really need.

I’m between the asking for the $14,000 and feeling for quarters in the couch cushions.

How do you grow into asking for what you need and then waiting for it, instead of hoarding what you have? The Catholic Workers have amazing stories about divine providence — in a country where a lot of people of faith think “God helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible. It’s not.

Are we rich or poor? “We always have enough. And we’re happy, and we’ve always got another sweater to put on, and I love you.”


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