“O God, I ask that all should have enough, and none should have too much.” This is one of my continuing prayers. At first it seems like a simple and easy thing to ask. But, on reflection, I have found it to be one of the most complex and difficult things for me to be asking my God to provide.
How much is enough? While I was the rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal church, a young man came to the door of the church seeking assistance. He had arrived on a bicycle that was loaded down with bags of many sizes and descriptions. All ingeniously attached to the frame. He had wheeled it through the door right into the hallway leading to my office. It was noon and our church secretary was glad to announce that she was leaving for her lunch break.
Upon inviting the fellow into my office, I asked him what I could do for him. He replied, “Well, pastor, I need a map of the roads of Idaho, Oregon and Washington. I am headed to Chehalis, and I do not want to ride my bike on the freeway. I really need a road map of the back roads from here to Chehalis, Washington.” I wanted to hear more about his story and so I invited him to come and have lunch with me at the Plaza Inn and we could then walk across the parking lot to the Right Aid pharmacy where I was pretty sure we could get the maps he required.
It was during that lunch hour I learned that he had been traveling on his bike for years. He did not have a car and had never owned a car. He said he had always lived “out in the open.” His mother also lived that way. I asked him about his education. He informed me that he had not really been to school but had learned to read and write through the corrections department of the state of New Jersey.
I learned much more about a most unusual and self-sufficient young man during that lunch hour. He was highly skilled in supporting himself on the fringes of the social order that I have come to take for granted. After lunch and when we procured his needed maps, I asked if there was anything else I could for him. He responded with the words; “Nope. I got the maps I need, and you even bought me lunch. Thanks, I have enough.” He shook my hand, boarded his bicycle, and left. So ended the most instructive lunch hour of all my years of ministry.
I have not seen or heard from that young man since. I think of him often and wish him well. I continue to be intrigued by what is enough for him and what is enough for me. I had thought of him as one of the downtrodden of our society. He saw himself as unencumbered and free to enjoy all that this world had to offer him. I have become acutely aware of the fact that it is possible to have too much and thereby be in a poorer state than those that have enough. While we often spend time worrying about whether we have enough to make the house payment or the car payment or to pay the credit card bill. Maybe if we had a different idea of what it would take to have enough, we would not have many of the financial burdens that worry us.
Many of us have the resources to pay a second car, a recreational vehicle, wifi, iPad, computer, a television in the family room of the modern home. Yet there are an increasing number of us that are not able to find shelter out of the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter. There are many of us that do not have enough food, clothing, or even basic sanitation. We are finding the conversation about providing shelter for the homeless of our community difficult. So many of us have so much more than enough that we are encumbered by our abundance. It is my continuing prayer that we may so come to understand how much is enough that we can give from our abundance to those who have too little that they may also have enough. First we must answer the questions: “How much is enough? How much is too much?”