So, we found the secret to getting rich. We found it out on some jagged crook of island, where the ocean slaps against the rocky shore, and a persistent alleluia miraculously breaks through the growl of hunger.
We worshipped Sunday next to the richest people in the world. And they didn’t look a thing like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.
They looked like Pastor Patrice and Judith and little Nadesh, with her scrawny arms raised in a wide Y toward the heavens.
The richest people in the world wear dirty shoes at the communion table, because they have to walk one stone-strewn path to get there.
I sat behind one rich woman. The hem had fallen out of her only church skirt, which she carefully pressed before gathering her tinies for the long walk to church. I watched her chin tremble when she sang. Her Bible was falling apart.
These are the filthy rich: dirt poor people with dirty feet … but rich in faith, hope and love.
The wealthiest of the wealthy drop their heads onto the pews in front of them, and I don’t know whether they’re crying or praising. Maybe both.
Maybe you’ve met the wealthy ones. Maybe you’ve met the ones who don’t have stock invested in Google, but in God.
Maybe you’ve met them in Haiti or along the red-dirt roads of Uganda. But maybe you never had to cross an ocean. Maybe you see the richest of the rich right where you are — in the deep south, or the blustery plains of North Dakota or under the tall spire of your church. I pray that you see the ultra-rich in your suburb and your carpool lane and your cul-de-sac and in your very own pew. Maybe? You see her in your very own mirror. If you do, my friend, you have learned that the real secret to getting rich quick has nothing to do with a wallet’s thickness.
But maybe you know it like I do: How a life of excess can be the fastest road to spiritual poverty. How it’s hard to see the real richness of life, when you think it has to do with keeping up with the Joneses.
We could miss true wealth, because our eyes are on the stacks and stockpiles and Cyber Monday deals. Believe me: I love a good bargain, and I have enough food in my cupboard and freezer to feed my family for months. But at times, I live like I’ve forgotten where the real treasure is.
Corrie Ten Boom, a concentration-camp survivor, said that can happen: “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
But for most of us, we’ll never get to the point where we have nothing. Most of us will always be able to fill our bellies with food, our shelves with Captain Crunch, our garages with cars, and our cars with gas.
So, for us, we’ll have to train ourselves in the ways of the truly rich — by practicing the persistent alleluia. It’s that same alleluia that breaks through the unspeakable pain in Haiti. We need that same alleluia to break through our “stuff.”
At the orphanage where we’re staying, Nadesh instructs her toddler friends to sit down on the bench in the outdoor lunchroom. Then, Nadesh — who came to this orphanage terribly malnourished a few months ago — stands up in front of them like a tiny preacher. She throws back her head, lifting her face to the sky, and stretches out both arms to heaven.
She belts out one word: ALLELUIA! And the children, repeat: ALLELUIA! Then she dances in a circle, clapping and praying, and tiny orphans repeat her words. She repeats. And the children keep responding. Alleluia … Alleluia … Alleluia…
And every morning for the last few weeks, the workers have heard that one word — Alleluia — coming from behind the closed door of the “baby room,” where the littlest children of the orphanage sleep.
When the babies wake up, and they want someone to come and get them out of bed, they cry out one word: ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!
And maybe that’s what we could do. It’s at least a really good place to start, to live our lives in this repeat cycle of waking up with the Alleluia on our lips. We could cry out for God to come and get us; we could cry out with our Alleluia. And all day long, we could sing it — with Nadesh — our continual thanksgiving to the heavens.