But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 3:18
Mattie and I sat out front and talked, she in her well worn rocker and I below her on the front stoop. Inside, seventeen high school students scurried around the house, each working on a project he or she had never attempted before. The holes in the wooden floor were being patched first to prevent Mattie’s chickens from entering the house from the ground below. There were also crews patching holes in the tin roof, outside walls, and inside cardboard covered plasterboard. They would soon get to replacing the windowpanes and then the back steps that had long since rotted and caved in, leaving a two-foot step down from the back door. Finally, the small wood frame house that had not been painted since its original white coat, would be painted baby blue, Mattie’s favorite color.
Mattie had been in this house for fourteen years. In its four rooms she had raised her five children. While there she had buried her husband, a coal miner, as was his father before him. Into the house she had now moved her aging mother as “There warn’t no where’s else for her to go.” Now Mattie shared the room in back with Gramma. Her fifteen-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son shared the front room.
Mattie’s world was a different world from mine. It was the world of the mountain folk of the Appalachians. Before meeting Mattie, I had thought I was raised poor. She gave my definition of the word poverty a new dimension. Although I could never completely comprehend or understand her existence, I couldn’t help but respect her dogged endurance. And I was spellbound by the stories and hardships of her life.
But over the course of our numerous talks, I became uncomfortable with the awareness that for Mattie there was another option to this barest of poverty existence. In her talking, I learned of a sister in a neighboring town. The sister was married to a store-owner who had often offered Mattie a job in his store and the use of a small brick house that had belonged to his parents. After three days of talking with Mattie, I finally felt trusted enough to ask her the question that had wedged itself with my mind. “Mattie, how can you live like this knowing that you don’t have to?” “Well,” she said, “It ain’t much, but it’s all I’s got.”
Mattie’s answer bumped around in my mind for days. What is there about us that makes us so resistant to change? I’ve noticed the tendency in so many small things. For instance, when we’re cold in bed, we’ll lay there miserable all night rather than get up for thirty seconds to get a blanket. And as the things increase in importance, the resistance remains the same. Whether it’s our clothes style, the arrangement of our house or office, a relationship we’re in, a job we have, the church we go to—we don’t want change. It makes us uncomfortable. We’re even willing to accept the mediocre, the borderline, and inadequate rather than risk change. We fight to remain uncomfortably the same. Like Mattie we say, in effect, “It ain’t much but it’s all I’s got.”
Prayer: Forgive us Lord when we get too comfortable with less than our best. Amen.