"just bring me a shot glass" & being ourselves in community.

blog just bring me a shot glassas someone whose mantra is “downward mobility,” i’m guessing it’s crossed some minds out here how i reconcile my life as part the refuge with my life that includes flying all over the world and doing all kinds of appearing-not-so-downwardly mobile things.

it crosses my mind, too.

it’s been quite a wild ride for me over the years, coming from a family with a single mom-working-her-tail-off-to-raise-her-three-kids-with-no-help, to going to one of the most affluent colleges in the country on as much financial aid as you can possibly get, to an excellent paying job on the management fast track & grad school, to marrying jose and having a bunch of kids and building a pretty stable life together with a solid income to missional pastoring and this crazy life-together-in-the-trenches. regardless of where i came from, i am a person of great privilege.   we live in a nice house & have health insurance & cars that we can put gas into & a full refrigerator.

it can seem like a mixed message.  some of my friends don’t have gas in their car and i just got back from greece & turkey.  how do we reconcile the disparity?

here’s how:  we’re honest about it.

it all comes back to relationship.  i am not saying it’s a piece of cake for my friends when they hear about our next adventure or they see pictures of our happy family on facebook when they long for one, but i do know this:  they love me still and i don’t have to hide or pretend in community with them. 

i can’t say i haven’t thought about trying to hide.  sometimes it is embarrassing to say “we’re going to new york….again.”  but then i come back  to the most important thing i continue to learn–we’ve got to be us.  not this person or that person, but us.  we need to be ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin, with our own stories & unique situations. 

this means i’m honest and give room for my friends to be honest, too.  they’ve told me they’re jealous.  that it’s sometimes hard to hear.   but that those honest feelings don’t change anything.

during the summer when we had a mission team here from indianapolis, we hosted a justice panel where 4 of our friends shared what their lives on the margins were really like. it was one of my all-time most favorite things we’ve ever done;  i’ll always remember something one of my dearest friends at the refuge said when we addressed this issue of “some of us have more money & margin while some others don’t and how do we deal with it together in community.”   here’s what he said:  “as long as kathy keeps bringing me shot glasses from wherever she goes, we’re happy.” (they have a shot glass collection, the collection kind, not the drinking out of them kind).

these friends are lucky if they have enough gas to make it to their doctor appointments each week.  i do what i can to love & support them & help in any way i can but me not going on my trip will not solve their problems.  it will not take away their pain or change their world in a snap.

the best gift i can give them is a lifetime of friendship.

that’s how we do this here.  that’s how we live with the disparity of those with resources & those without.  that’s how we live our lives out in the open instead of hiding or pretending.  it’s because we’re friends.

real friends.

friends who tell the truth about where we’re going and what we’re doing.

friends who celebrate the beauty in each others’ lives and remain present in the ugly.

friends who keep showing up & trying to practice what it means to be a friend.

friends who cheer each other on in every adventure, no matter how small or big.

friends who are getting really good at buying shot glasses.

* * * * *

ps:  more on our trip next week. it was really a beautiful adventure.

ppss: i wanted to share october’s column at sheloves centered on down we go. it’s is from down we go & based on a post i wrote at the very beginning of this blog. it’s called:  tortoise or hare: the gift of rising slowly.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

20 Comments

  • Great, practical thoughts on how to bridge our differences, especially those that we may want to hide. Thanks Kathy!

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  • Thank you Kathy for a good insightful article. It’s really nice when we don’t have to pretend and can be comfortable in our own skin regardless of our differences.

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  • Awesome! I mean how exactly does it serve anyone for you to stop going on trips and hiding your life? xoxo

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  • Oh this was a good one, and really timely for me. I was talking with a co-worker today about how I wanted to purchase these boots, that are cute, but more expensive than I normally feel comfortable with. They will be really good for my bad ankle, but whatever. Working at a community mental health center, I was telling her that I would feel really guilty wearing them. She looked at me and was like, “well we work hard”. Well, so do these families in lots of different ways. I reconciled within myself, however, that it was really cleverly (or not so) disguised co-dependence. Like I want the teens to see me as benevolent and empathetic-by denying my own wants to keep up an image? Do I want to flaunt things in clients faces? No. But it doesn’t do them any good to encourage them to be authentic, and then hide for the sake of hiding.

    Also, I *totally* want to be an Escobar. 🙂 I remember talking to your Jonas one time, and we were talking about how people in general think life is easier as an Escobar. I will never forget how he was like, “Oh no, tell them that we have problems in life like everyone else!”

    Am I jealous that I was not born into your family? Yep. Do I realize, though, that just because you guys have adorable matching outfits & my smiles in the cards every year, that it does not negate the fact that you have hard stuff to deal with? Indeed. However, does it make me appreciate the fact that security and unconditional love and feeling like a daughter anyways is even that more amazing? Suuuure does.

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    • i hope you buy the shoes 🙂 i love that line: “it doesn’t do them any good to encourage them to be authentic and then hide for the sake of hiding”. learning to be ourselves is maybe the work of our lives. i love that jonas story, too, makes me happy. and yes we sure do! i am glad you are part of our family.

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  • LOVE this! Several years ago I opened my life and my home to a young woman who has been poor her whole life. I began to see my life through her eyes…how I would effortlessly fill my tank up and pay for it with a credit card; how I would go to the grocery store and buy whatever I needed without much thought; how i never fretted about where i was going to be living or if i could make rent or not. I felt the tension of that disparity with deep awareness. I was tempted to hide my middle-class affluence. Sometimes I did, like the time she needed a ride to the grocery story I decided Hell No I am not going to buy a single thing with her watching my every move….. but eventually I came to the same conclusion that you did : I have to honest about who I am and the life that I am afforded to live. She has to do the same about her life and where she is at. She did not choose to be born into poverty. She did not choose to inherit mental illness. She did not choose childhood neglect and abuse. This is her story and it is her reality that she will likely struggle most if not all of her life to make ends meet.

    Where we born and who we were born to are such huge factors to the story we find ourselves in and the power we have to revise and edit our stories. She had little editing power. But she loved being at my house. She loved offering to help prepare a meal because she knew I was able to get whatever ingredients she needed. She loved being in a “normal” house watching me parent my kids. And at times wisdom would erupt out of her that would leave me speechless. She helped me see that befriending the poor must not be an act of charity or a rescue mission. She was figuring stuff out. She needed support and yes, there were times she needed money and rides and help that I could not always give her, and of course there were blurred lines of healthy boundaries and gray areas always getting pulled every which way.

    But at the heart of it was two women trying to forge a friendship despite the disparity. And we all know that friendship requires authenticity. I think we did manage to have that as much as we could. At times it felt like a cultural impasse and in some ways I think it was. I learned a lot from her. I also learned to not be ashamed or embarrassed of the life that I am living. It is my story and the best gift I could give her was to be an honest, openhearted woman with my middleclass, minivan-mama story line.

    (LOVE how this ethos has developed for you at The Refuge! Money and haves and have nots are always frought with tension and gaps. A community can be built on differences and I think it makes that community stronger when differences are recognized and accepted rather than categorized and used to label people. You are truly nurturing a transparent community when the haves and the have nots can respect each other’s stories)

    And WELCOME HOME!!!!!!

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    • thanks my friend and it makes me happy that you know and love our community and have experienced it first hand. thanks for sharing this story, too, so beautiful.

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  • This post made me think. Like you, we have lots and lots of friends with little or no margin. We also have friends with lots of margin. A subset of one of those groups regularly asks for money and free or discounted services. Most of the other group never asks for anything, but is always thankful for anything we share with them. Of course it is the group with lots of margin that wants more, more, more.

    We don’t hide who we are, but part of who we are includes sharing, as I know it does for you. Yeah, any time we can buy what we want at the grocery store when there are those we know who can’t, it is inequitable. But we do share. Sharing includes, but isn’t limited to money and stuff. It includes sharing our lives and time over the years with a broad spectrum of people.

    You may be a jet-setter, but you neglected to mention you get a nice discount!

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    • ha ha, yeah, flying free is pretty awesome! i really like what you and diana both sid about remembering that sharing is only about money & stuff. yeah, it goes so far beyond that.

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  • This is just lovely, Kathy. And really helpful for this former (retired) pastor whose husband has a God-given gift for making and investing money. He did it for others for over 40 years and still does it for family members in retirement. I don’t understand why there is such disparity in so many areas of life – I just know that there is and that we need to own that truth. Our church is in one of the very wealthiest enclaves in all of north America, yet there are many in our community who barely make it. So far, we’ve been able to work together – the richer ones helping the not-so-rich-ones in all kinds of material ways (and often, in spiritual ways, too – we are blessed with some wonderfully wise older saints) and those who struggle economically remind us all that the blessings of money are good, but insufficient for a full, rich life. Being honest without flaunting or bragging is key to this mystery, I think. Thank you for highlighting this reality.

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  • I really appreciated this post. God has different paths for each of us. Each has their own struggles. Learning to be who we are & be honest about it! Hopefully we can get to a place with our friends that differ greatly from us in (whatever way) that the (whatever way) just doesn’t matter, it’s not a focus. 🙂 You’re so wise <3 To quote Frank Viola — we can be a Jesus Manifesto exactly as we are, where we are right now. Because Jesus IS in us and desires to live through us! To still be who we are! – but to allow Jesus to live through us. More & more I'm realizing being a Christ follower doesn't look like xyz….. it looks so DIFFERENT everywhere you look – because we are all different. It looks like LOVE – expressing itself in so many different forms & ways.

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  • Vintage Kathy once again!!! Very much resonate with the raised by single mom with no help. You are gifted with a versatility which allows you the ability to communicate tough areas in ways that make them less hazy and more clear. Your talking about being honest and real as opposed to hiding or covering up made me think of the songs Lean On Me and Thats What Friends Are For. Thinking about you though Miss queen of nuttiness and adventure lol what comes to mind is Just the Way You Are!!!!

    Reply

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