At the Apparent Project house we are big fans of the t.v. show “So you think you can dance”, or as our children like to call it “So you stink in your pants”. After downloading the entire last season over our molasses-slow internet connection we finally finished watching the show a week or two ago. Jackson now regularly sings, “Gotta get that BOOM BOOM BOOM” to display his continued endearment to the show, and he does a cool little dance with half of his body flailing and the other side just rocking side to side. Keziah dances around like a ballerina if the music is even slightly graceful, and Zebedee generally jumps into ninja poses, or ratchets some invisible bolt with one hand while putting on his toughest looking B-boy face during the more upbeat, hip hop songs. Ember has her own little dances, usually a modified impersonation of her siblings’ gyrations… but always her stoic little sleepy-looking face. I don’t usually think about my kids’ skin color anymore, but during these dance parties I am reminded that two of my kids are very, very, very white.
By far, my favorite routine of the season was a dance to Michael Andrews song, “Mad World” performed by Billy Bell and Ade Obiwankenobi (or something like that). They performed a dance about the relationship between wealth and poverty. Before reading further you can…. excuse me… you MUST watch that dance at this link:
I don’t know if this routine moves you as much as it moved us when we watched it, but I thought I’d share a little about my reaction.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a public library in Elgin, Il. Next to me I have a stack of audio books that I’m going to download onto my computer so that I can listen to them later. Then I’m going to get into a borrowed van and drive back to a warm and comfortable home where I will be hosted for another week, eating 3 square meals a day (gastronomical geometry?). This wouldn’t have sounded like a position of wealth to me 3 years ago, but everything I just said feels very opulent to me. The library I’m sitting in gives me access to endless educational opportunities for free in a beautiful building that probably cost a few million dollars BEFORE they filled it with books, computers, cds and DVDs. My education allows me to best use these resources, and to use words like “gastronomical”. My relationships with people with power (compared to the rest of the world) allow me to borrow a car. I could dumpster dive at a million locations, selecting exactly what I might want to eat tonight. I’m rich.
The first time I walked in here I got angry. I thought of how half of my neighborhood friends in Haiti can’t read and about how those who could would have to make a choice between eating for 3 days and buying a book should they choose to try to grow their literacy or, for that matter, any other knowledge they might get from reading. This library is better furnished, temperature controlled, and more spacious than any home I’ve ever seen in Haiti, not to mention it has freely flowing drinking water from chilled, shiny fountains on each wheelchair-accessible floor. All for free to the public. I can sit here as long as I want and not get kicked out until closing time. I could watch movies, listen to music, learn another language, research at the “job hunting” station, write a resume…. you get the picture. Free. Because a government is doing its job and people value each other and value education.
This is a good thing. But for most Americans it’s a totally mundane, normal part of life. In fact, the library represents boredom to a lot of people. That is why while I’m in America I feel like the beggar in the dance. In Haiti I feel like the rich guy… always being asked for something because I represent a place and a skin color that always seems to have enough. But here in America, I feel my solidarity with the poor. I see the endless resources available, and the abundance with which my American friends live and I feel the beggar in me welling up. We have to beg for the resources to make the Apparent Project work. In three months we will have to pay $16,500 for rent on our facilities and we don’t know where that will come from. We have thousands of homeless around us that we want to build homes for. The same people need jobs, and with the right resources we know we can provide them… so… Yes. That’s me holding the brown hat out. I am begging from you. Yes you, reading this blog, I’m the street person with the can, the dishevelled guy on the street. And I want to look YOU in the eye and ask.
Yet, when I see people eye to eye, like Billy finally looking at Ade’s face in the dance, I can do the same moves, talk the same talk, act like I’m not a beggar. I can dance right along with the music. In my heart I feel like saying, “look how rich you are! Please help Haiti, please help me!’ But it’s shameful and hard for me to ask… so I dance along. I pose and turn. It’s a mad world.
When it gets really painful is when the music turns to “economic crisis”, “joblessness”, or all the people buying gold because they fear the American economy might fall. I wonder to myself if they are also laying up treasure where rust and moths can’t destroy and thieves can’t steel. Are they buying gold in the one economy that will never fall? I want to say, especially to those who understand themselves to be citizens in God’s kingdom, “you don’t belong to America or her economy, you belong to a global economy that has one king. Are you paying your taxes?”
But pushy beggars never get a penny, do they? Vulnerability and lack are uncomfortable to stare in the eye. Pain. Sorrow. Dance, dance, dance. Hunger, dance. Homelessness, dance. Haiti, dance…. It really is a mad world.
Here’s where you can find my can:
Got any spare change?