Free to be Rich or Poor

Budapest Parliament

We made it! Back to the lands I love. I’m having a grand time–except for one thing. I feel conflicted.

It’s time I come clean. I’m having a hard time with one area of my life.

There’s something that I wish I could keep to myself but I can’t. I need to be authentic. And I’m too excited about this trip to keep it in any longer.

What’s my secret?

We came here for a river cruise.

Steve and I are cruising down the Danube, connecting two cities I lived in:  Budapest, Hungary and Bucharest, Romania.

What’s hard about that?

We’re not just on a fishing boat. It’s a very nice ship. (If you watched Downton Abbey, imagine the ads of people cruising in front of Budapest’ s Parliament and you’ve got the picture.)

Of course, we got a stupendous deal and we are down in steerage with tiny little windows.

But why do I feel compelled to tell you that?

When I lived here, I tried to live simply. As an American, I realize I’m stinkin’ rich compared to most of the world, but I’ve never thought of myself that way. At least, not compared to my compatriots.

But in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, as much as I tried to live like the nationals did, I had options that nationals only dreamed of. I was different.

Yet I was single and I started life here in a dorm room, moved to a small flat, then a larger flat. My flats here never felt extravagant. Oodles of students and staff members were ministered to and filled my home with life and love and laughter.

When I’ve returned for visits with Steve, we’ve taken trains around Europe and trams in the cities. That’s my M.O.

But not Steve’s. His tastes are more expensive than mine, but he’s a good sport and is adventurous. My M.O. became our M.O.

Now we’re on a very nice ship.

So here’s my internal dilemma. We want to visit my friends. People who knew me in the old days.

How do I be content to be myself and not apologize that I seem like a wealthy American now?  Why can’t I be free to be me, whether I’m rich or poor or somewhere in between?

The apostle Paul learned the secret of being content with a little or a lot. I desperately need to learn the secret of being content with whether people think I have a little, or whether people think I have a lot.

Why do others’ opinions still matter to me, or what I perceive their opinions to be?

Some of the best and most generous people I know are wealthy. There’s nothing wrong with that. Money is neutral. It’s only the love of it that can cause problems.

I guess being a rich woman who takes European river cruises is not who I am. At least it’s not who my national friends know me to be.

However, Steve and I are having a lot of fun. I’ve assimilated to life back in the States. Maybe I’ve changed.

If you’re still thinking, What’s the big deal? Let me illustrate.

When we set sail, our cruise director cautioned us to excuse the Eastern Europeans’ backwardness. She said they’re poor and they don’t have the infrastructure to provide the comfort we’re accustomed to.

I wanted to barf!

She’s criticizing the people I love about something out of their control that is totally insignificant and only matters to people who feel entitled. Not me!

Maybe I just need to trust my friends to know the difference. Trust them to trust my heart. And stop worrying about how I might be perceived and just show them I love them.

Because I do. I always will.

3 thoughts on “Free to be Rich or Poor

  1. Cindy (cousin)

    They will know your heart. This trip isn’t something you do every year…you deserve it. All the giving and ministry you two do and will do….to savor a luxury from time to time will sustain and refresh you. I remember feeling so embarrassed when Bela, my partner minister, first visited the US. Our house, which was just like yours, was a McMansion compared to the villagers’ cottages. But it was fine. Love is what speaks loudest and you have plenty of that..hope you can enjoy each moment and also trust in providence and the love and wisdom of your dear friends.


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