Insufficient Funds

by Chris Burton

I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door, I’ll get it myself.- James Brown


My grandmother accurately pointed me out as prideful when I told her that song lyric was a significant part of my worldview. I know I need help from time to time but am ashamed sometimes. As wonderful as it feels to be a cheerful giver, I am learning to be a grateful recipient of charity. Receiving help, I remind myself, is not an emasculating enterprise. It does not devalue but feelings of worthlessness are a common byproduct. As if it proves one cannot stand on their own two, or are not holding up their end of the deal.

I’m a firm believer in interdependence. We all have value, and it can be wholly transformative when we view one another as capable of bringing something to the table. I don’t want to boil life down to mere transactions but there are factors that attack this aspect of our identities and leave our self-worth vulnerable. 

What would life be like if we all gave cheerfully and were not ashamed to receive? If our love for one another prevented us from taking or cruelly demonstrating power over one another? 

Easter Sunday made me think about impossible debts. My worldview is shaped by my belief that God did something for me that I could never do for myself. It’s humbling, the kind of love that embarrasses but inspires gratitude.

I’ve always needed people but fighting this illness has made it more apparent. There are days when I just don’t have it and need help. This fight has shown me how stubborn I can be, how much I don’t want to receive charity and how impermanent things are. No matter how invulnerable I would like to be, I am subject to human limitation. Loving myself requires me to acknowledge and accept this. The love I receive from others, through kind words and deeds, should remind me of how important community is, how much we are blessed to be a blessing, and a constant reminder that I owe more than I could ever pay.