“I don’t know what it is,” she told me, “but I just feel so damned rich when I have a package full of dates in my pantry. That, and a rack full of wine.” Sherry had been teaching me how to be rich for months, toting clementines and apples, blending dates with lemon juice and cinnamon and leaving these feasts on the table as we worked. And she rarely put them away until the containers were empty. Being the newest employee at our little vegan kitchen, I was hesitant to partake. I didn’t want to seem grabby. I didn’t want to offend. Or maybe I didn’t want to share my own stash. I was still learning how to claim what was mine, and I was busting my bank to keep the giant refrigerator at home stocked. That was how I was rich. Endless options for endless meal possibilities. And it was breaking me.
I don’t believe in my parents’ God, anymore. We split a while back on issues of loving your neighbor, although I’m sure that’s always the issue that separates someone from their respective God. I’m pretty sure that makes my parents richer, because this particular strain of deity is one who thrives on exclusion. He is what gives them permission to do good deeds for people in Haiti and for children in their church. They have been storing their riches in Heaven for years, which means that they can’t bask in their golden ponds until after they die. I like this spiritual squirreling away– intangibly hiding each charitable donation in the nook of a tree just beyond the clouds for the Later. I worry that their unwavering silent standoff with their son and daughter-in-law will demerit their strong sycamore storage down to a thin birch’s cranny. It’s too much for me to wonder which deed will win me a bigger crown, and which will potentially send me packing, ragged and homeless, to the pits of Hell. I keep a safe distance from knowing my eternal destiny, and maybe it makes my parents richer.
Instead, I trail myself around the regions of God that the damned and confused seem to also be, concocting possibilities that may be a solution to poverty and eternal damnation. I am testing theories over campfires or in Walmart parking lots at night with my Someone, trying to crack the firmament that is encapsulating a place where everyone can live after we die and be rich. And choose to be rich.
Maybe when we are born, for a split second, everyone sees life and finds the one thing that makes them most curious, and they have to try and resist it as long as they can, because as soon as they learn it, they die. Curiosity killing cats and stuff. It could be anything– candlemaking, or the name of the fourth Beatle, or who their true birth mother is. This way, always, we have a small idea in each of our brains that we will one day be wealthy– that our final itch is still unscratched, and when we scratch it, we can be content with all we’ve been given. Which may explain why so many of us are afraid to learn something new. It could be the death of us.
My friend Bryan and his love recently became rich with a decision from the Supreme Court. I celebrate with them, because it makes them richer, which makes me richer. But it seems to make much of the Republican party feel poorer.
Maybe it is like this: that all this time that we have been supposed to store our riches in Heaven, God has been storing them in us. S/he places tiny bits of what s/he wants to remember in our brains. As we forget those things, someone else remembers them for us. For every death there is a birth, a new memory keeper, a new storehouse of riches. So many of us have to remember that the sky is blue, because the sky is so big, and God needs as much memory for that as possible so as to keep it from crashing down on us. And these sort of things make us rich together… if we take the time to share them.
I still keep our refrigerator stocked full, but I shrank the vessel to 1/5th its original size. This has made me exceedingly wealthy, particularly as people enter our little camper and are greeted with a home. The day that Sherry traded me a bag full of dates for a Yonanas blender I was hoarding, and now needing to get rid of as I made the transition from house to full-time camper, I became rich, too. Sherry’s rich was not abundance, it was in the belief that there is enough for everyone. I keep our pantry stocked with dates, now. Because they make Sherry rich. Which makes everyone rich.