The Power of Poor … November 24, 2011


In Washington, D.C.

Here’s a fact. Chief Running Deer and Pilgrim John Alden are never going to share a turkey together unless they first have partaken of a common poverty.

If the Pilgrims had been highly successful in the New World, they would never even have considered turning to their perceived savage neighbors–the American Indians–for assistance. The difference between red skin and white skin was made null and void by the fear in each one of them of just becoming dead skins.

The Pilgrims were starving. Sickness had set in. The harvest was not plentiful. They had not found the New World to be the vista of possibilities or the land of milk and honey, but rather, a kingdom of mean and hurt. The Native Americans had survived the weather and learned the ways of the soil, and though they themselves were still very impoverished, these industrious people had found a way to survive the climate and still have enough to share with paler brothers. Without poverty, there is no Thanksgiving.

I sometimes become amused when I hear politicians in our country dream of a day when all Americans are rich–or at least securely tucked away in the middle class.  Here’s a clue, my friend.  Rich people don’t develop a sudden tendency towards generosity.  That’s why, when a rich person actually does give a gift, it makes headlines. Wealthy folks are even MORE concerned about maintaining the inventory of their supply house than those who are pulling roots out of the ground and plucking berries off of bushes.

Of course, the introduction of the middle class into any society is the intrusion of a mindset that has everything budgeted down to the tinest farthing, so as to maintain the blessing of perceived security. No, I will tell you on this Thanksgiving Day that there would never have been a Thanksgiving without the power of poor. It is amazing how racial barriers, ethnic fussiness and religious bigotry disappear when there is only one slice of bread and two people to share it. At that point, there is a choice: are you going to kill your neighbor to procure the whole slice, or find a way to be grateful as you munch your half?

The weakness of capitalism is the notion that people will not be happy until they’re financially secure. If we really believe that no one can find contentment without remuneration, we limit the scope of the human heart to share, the human soul to generate ideas, the human mind to make plans and the human body to endure a bit of discomfort in order to achieve sustenance.

Can we really be thankful if there were no chance that we actually were in peril of being without? I just don’t think so. In my lifetime I have had much and I’ve had little, and I will candidly tell you that the times I had little I was more innovative, generous and forthcoming than I ever was when my coffers were full. I tried to be the open soul when I possessed greater wealth, but nothing compares to the power of poor.

As Pilgrim John Alden stood outside his cabin and saw Chief Running Deer walking up the path, his first puritanical instinct was probably to grab his musket and destroy the enemy. And then he noticed that the Chief was carrying corn, had a wild turkey thrown over his back and some sort of flask containing what he hoped was good drink. The instinct to kill was replaced by the desire to survive.

So as you sit down at your Thanksgiving meal today, give yourself a great gift. Envision a climate where you really would be in need–and what would be your choice and direction in handling that lacking? Then look at your table of plenty and realize how magnificently blessed you are–and unworthy of such consideration. For me, I remember one particular Thanksgiving when turkey was served only as hot dogs and desserts were certainly absent altogether, but what we had was a great sense of humor and a hope for a better future. Perhaps a bit of tenderness will enter your heart and you will realize how close we all come, from time to time, to being abandoned.

Racial barriers were eliminated at the first Thanksgiving … because hungering and thirsting drew all the parties closer to true righteousness.


Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

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