When I was a kid I always wanted to be rich. I had big plans. I would drive the coolest car. I’d get a big house with a swimming pool and maybe a roller coaster in the back yard. I’d have all these friends.
About 10 years ago on a Tuesday I realized my childhood dream. I discovered that I was rich. But it didn’t feel like I always thought it would. I thought I would feel a great sense of satisfaction and a surge of confidence. My expectation was that I would get a great sense of security. I always thought that once I reached that dream I would be happy and satisfied and I could just bask in my success.
On that Tuesday, I didn’t feel any of those emotions.
I felt selfish and unworthy of all that I had.
Instead of a great sense of euphoria, I felt a heavy burden of melancholy so much so that I couldn’t stop myself from crying.
My story starts on a Sunday. The church I pastor was visited by Pastor Gaston. Gaston runs an orphanage that we had been rebuilding in Haiti. This was his first trip to San Diego. He came out to be a part of a missions fundraiser for Children’s Heritage Foundation. When I saw Gaston in the crowd I had to bring him on stage. I had no idea what he would say, but it was worth the risk. He eloquently addressed our people and then asked me “Can I sing?” In that moment I was thinking, “I don’t know, can you sing?” He sang an incredible song in his native Creole and the audience was blown away. It didn’t matter what my message was about that day, the only thing any of those people remembered was Pastor Gaston.
The next night we had a party in our house for Pastor Gaston. My wife had to work late that day so I was in charge of getting the house ready. That morning I ran around like a crazy person cleaning our house, hiding things that would usually be on our counter tops, and generally trying to fool people into believing that we are neat and tidy people. I did the best I could, but there were two things I just couldn’t hide. One was the 2 foot crack we had in our counter top and the other was our dead lawn in back. One of our friends made the comment that it was nice of us to have a big ugly dirt patch in our home to remind Gaston of Haiti.
Despite the crack and my backyard, that evening turned out fantastic. We ate until we were stuffed, and then we had dessert. We spent some time in worship and prayer. I was even able to talk Gaston in singing us another song. It was a great night.
As the night came to a close I spoke to my friend Robert who had been hosting Gaston on his trip and I asked him what sights he had taken Gaston to see on his trip. He told me they hadn’t really seen anything other than the inside of a church building and that Gaston was going home on Wednesday. I thought to myself,
“There is no way I’m letting this guy go home from his first trip to San Diego without seeing some of the sights.”
So I asked Robert if I could have Gaston for the day. He agreed to drop him off at my office at 9:30 on Tuesday. I cleared my schedule and made arrangements to make that day a memorable one. Do you want to see what we did? Click on the picture below to watch the video.
I can’t tell you the joy I felt taking my friend on that adventure, but at the beginning I thought it wasn’t going to happen. We showed up at Sea World that day and the park was shut down. They had a water main break so they couldn’t open the park.
I decided to take Gaston and my daughter Sterling to get some breakfast at a little cafe that overlooked the bay. We ordered and they brought us three plates of food. I’m sure they were just normal sized portions, but when they brought out our food the plates and portions looked enormous. As we sat and ate, I felt uncomfortable. I thought,
“What is it like to live in a country where so many people are hungry and have someone bring you food like this?”
So I asked Gaston. He told me that the first time he left Haiti and went to Florida, he didn’t eat for three days because he was so overwhelmed by how much abundance we have. I couldn’t stop thinking about the disparity between how I live and how Gaston lived so I asked him this question. “How many people would you say are hungry in Haiti right now?” Gaston said, “Based on what I see I would say 85%.” Then he stopped himself and added this.
“85% are hungry and 50% are starving.”
That statement is still ringing in my ears. After that I was sure to finish my plate. I felt a little guilty when Sterling couldn’t finish hers.
I made a call found out that they had opened Sea World so I paid the bill and off we went. My original plan was to take Gaston to Sea World and just laugh and have a good time, but that comment changed me. It put life into perspective.
When we got into Sea World, the Shamu show was just about to begin so I hustled Gaston over to Shamu stadium. As the show began and the music started to build I couldn’t take my eyes off Gaston. I wanted to see his face the moment that killer whale jumped out of the water. Shamu leaped out of the water and Gaston’s mouth dropped and then an ear to ear smile flashed across his face.
In that moment I had realized a life long dream. I was rich and I began to cry
I was the guy who had the big house with the pool. But it didn’t feel like what I had thought it would feel like. I felt selfish and unworthy for all that I had. I was rich not because I’m such a hard worker or because I’m so smart, but simply because of the country I was born in. Instead of this great sense of euphoria, I felt this heavy burden of melancholy so much so that I couldn’t stop myself from crying.
That day I spent with Gaston was one of the most amazing, memorable, hilarious days of my life. But it changed me. As I drove home after that day with Gaston asleep in my passenger seat, I realized that as a rich man I have a responsibility.
I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this. Most of you never have to worry about missing a meal. You have homes and running water and sometimes working cars. We’re not hungry. We don’t even know what hungry feels like, let alone starving.
When we started our church many years ago we had all kinds of dreams and visions of what we would like the people in our upper middle class work to understand, but the following thought has taken over our passion.
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. I Timothy 6:18-19
Being rich in God’s eyes is not having all the money you could spend on yourself. Being rich is being rich enough to invest in others. To be rich in good deeds. To have the money to care for other people. According to these verses that is “life that is truly life.”
Join the adventure. Live rich.