We watched an interview with playwright Terrence McNally and actress Tyne Daly this morning. It was about the new play(Mothers and Sons) McNally has written for Daly, which is currently getting rave reviews on Broadway. In fact, Daly has been nominated for a Tony for her performance of a woman who lost her only son to AIDS twenty years before the play begins, and her meeting with his then-lover.
At the end of the interview, I wanted to get tickets for the show and fly to New York to see it, but we are already scheduled to go to France later this year and one expensive trip a year is about all we can afford. Besides, all we could afford of tickets on Broadway would be in the nosebleed section and I've become so spoiled by our free critics seats in the expensive section of all the theaters.
At the same time, we just had word that Char and Mike have made reservations for a tour that sounds fascinating. They are flying to Iceland for a tour of that country and then a flight to be somewhere where they can get the best view of the next lunar eclipse. It sounds interesting, and Iceland is a country which I would like to explore, though I don't know why. But the cost of this tour is prohibitive and we just can't afford to join them this time.
When things like this come up, you think (a little) about how nice it must be to be rich. To be able to fly anywhere on a whim just to do something like going to a play. One of my latest additions to my bucket list is to fly somewhere first class (or at least business class)...a flight long enough to enjoy the ability to actually sleep lying down on the plane. How lovely that must be.
But if we can afford to fly somewhere, it's in steerage, with cramped leg room and no room to put down a tray table if you have a big belly.
But disappointment over not being able to afford these expensive things was put in perspective for me when I read a blog entry from Compassion.
I'm poor.I don't think I've ever used the expression "I'm poor" because I know I am not. But I certainly am aware of the limits of our money and how I can't just go off willy nilly and buy whatever appeals to me at the time. But even with that mindset, I can't begin to imagine how rich I must seem to my Compassion kids.
I think we started saying it in our college years when we were living on student loans or our parents’ mercy, and we have continued to carry it with us as we age. We usually say it in casual conversations like, “I love that restaurant, but I’m too poor to eat out very often.” Or “I’m too poor to afford cable TV.” Or as I recall recently saying about an upcoming trip my extended family is taking, “I’m too poor to go to Disney World.”
Usually we say it flippantly — we realize we’re not that poor. But I think we say it because in the United States, there is always someone richer than you just around the corner. We are so surrounded by great riches that our relative riches seem paltry in comparison.
Compared to 99% of the billions of people in the world, I am rich. My house has a door, and a roof, and a floor, and windows and running clean water and I even let dogs live here and sleep on the furniture. My house has furniture. Walt and I have 2100 square feet for just the two of us, and so much stuff that the house feels cramped.
We can't afford to fly to Iceland and take a special plane to see an eclipse, or fly to New York just to see a play (though we did do that twice to see Jimmy and Steve on stage), but we have a big screen TV and a couple of computers and lots of electronic gadgets. I have to decide what I'm going to cook each night from the stuff that is stored in the kitchen, I don't have to wonder if I'm going to have any food at all.
It is good, once in awhile, to stop and think about not what you can't do for financial reasons, but what you can and do do because you can afford to do those things. It does us good to think about the families who must share one small room, who walk miles each day to get polluted water for cooking and washing, and who, when they get a monetary gift, buy items of necessity for the family (Anjali has bought an iron, a suitcase, and kitchen equipment to help her mother, instead of toys for herself)
Each time I get a letter from one of my Compassion kids they always ask how my health "and the health of your family members" is. I realize that this is because disease is so rampant in all of the areas where they live that health concerns for people you care about is always an interest. I live in a country where there is preventive medical care, immunizations, and health guidelines to keep the cities disease free. It would never occur to me to ask Char how the health of her family members were, unless I knew someone had a specific problem.
Some of my kids are in AIDS impacted areas, some suffer because they can't afford mosquito netting. Little Fred's baby brother died a couple of years ago--I still don't know why. Shallon had to give up a year of school because her sister got malaria and she was the only one who could earn money for the family while her sister recovered..