We hired Richard to tile the floor in our basement kitchen.
Was that a wise decision?
It depends on the lenses you see through.
Some folks would have taken three days to wrap up that job. Not Richard.
After three weeks of excessive smoke breaks, long conversations about his life, adhesive that somehow “dried up too fast,” mysteriously depleted materials, and loose tiles that “somebody must be messin with”… he claimed the job was done.
Through the lens of scarcity…
We threw our money away. We’ll have to buy more materials and pay someone else. It was an unreasonable waste of the budget - both time and money.
Through the lens of abundance…
During three weeks of bitter Denver cold and snow, Richard, a homeless man who lives out of his car, had a warm place to be during the day. We furthered our relationship through many meaningful conversations and perhaps he experienced some small sense of empowerment.
I suppose both perspectives contain important realities, but one is far more difficult to hold on to than the other… especially this time of year. Here in these first few days of March with overcast skies and my tires spinning on a thick layer of ice the way of abundance feels extra elusive.
The way of scarcity is so much more popular. Actually, the wheels of our economy and politics spin on the ice of scarcity. That pervasive message that there’s never enough and what’s left will run out soon keeps us frantically spinning to escape our very lives. We stare down at our phones and sleepwalk through the divinely diverse varieties of life's beauty and wonder.
On the other hand, the choice to affirm that there is enough for all is the foundation of community, peace, and social justice. The way of abundance frees my imagination to expand the way I live, love, and work with others.
Through the lens of abundance we see like God sees. Recognizing the distinction between scarcity and abundance really makes all the difference!
Once again, presence among marginalized people and communities helps me remember a crucial paradox that when it comes to acquiring the way of abundance... less is more. The less we have the more potential for the abundant life. It's simply incongruent to live in the flow of abundance and be a hoarder or protector of our stuff. The way of abundance lends to making, repairing, and sharing our stuff rather than always running to the store to accumulate more stuff. (Ironically, folks call that retail therapy!) In the abundant way we can actually multiply the fishes and loaves - the stuff of meaning and sustenance.
In John's gospel, Jesus said, the water I give them will become like a spring of water welling up to eternal life. The gospel story of abundance points us to the radical notion that the magnificent, inexplicable love of God is within the very origins of all that is which certainly includes us as human beings. Within each of us is the image and potential for abundance.
Was hiring Richard a wise decision? Sometimes even within stories of frustrated incompleteness comes a reminder that ultimately there is enough.