We had to spend half a month’s paychecks to replace our car’s air-conditioning on Monday. We were sitting in the waiting area when we found out, working on our computers with the lounge’s free wifi, and we only agreed to go through with the repair after Tim had researched other options online, compared prices, realized this was the best one and I had repeated silently in my brain that “it’s only money, it’s only money” once or twice. The work that we agreed to pay for would take another four or so hours, we were told, and after only about two hours in we were hungry, so the dealership’s shuttle driver pulled up, picked us up and greeted us with a gruff, “Well, where are we going?” and barely two words more than that the whole ride. He was probably the age of or a little older than my own dad, maybe somebody’s grandpa, the kind of guy who seemed like he might smile if you knew the right thing to say (but we never figured out what that was). He played pop songs and kept the car as cold as a refrigerator, and he spent his afternoon driving single-car freelancers like us to the local Whole Foods Market. Here a girl my age was having a bad day because her personal vehicle needed a repair that she could pull from her (admittedly shrinking) savings to pay for, and a man his age was having to be the one to drive me to a place to get lunch.
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about classes and wealth and poverty, not intentionally anyway. On Tuesdays like today I drop Tim off at work in Edgehill, an area in the middle of Nashville that’s filled with half-a-million-dollar renovations as well as blocks of Section 8 housing, and sometimes when I drive through the neighborhood or go to the local library, I marvel at the juxtaposition of people who can meet friends at Taco Mamacita with the people who are begging for handouts on the street. This is nothing shocking. It’s true in every city. But there are days when our two-bedroom rental feels pretty small, and there are days when it feels like a palace, just based on what I’m comparing it to in my head. I have friends on either side of the city, over in Sylvan Park or East Nashville, and to visit either I cross through areas I would have grown up calling the ghetto in order to park at their cool, clean, comfortable apartments and houses. The street Tim and I rent our house on is sweet and well cared for, with neighbors who hang out on front porches and families taking walks down the street, and some days I feel so spoiled to live on it. It’s also just a block or so off Nolensville Road, a busy strip packed with run-down retail shops. I used to think money was simple: Get a job, pay your bills, be responsible and then everything works out. But when I talk to someone who’s been out of work for a year or read the stories of girls who never knew families, I know everything’s much more complicated than that.
Food blogging is such a luxury hobby. Generally speaking, it’s done by affluent people with good jobs and good paychecks who have extra time to devote to something they enjoy. That’s not to say all bloggers are rich or that blogging isn’t important but rather that, if you have an Internet connection and time to read or write blogs, you have a lot. I have a lot. I, the girl who was so emotionally worn out from our budget talks yesterday that I collapsed on the sofa when we got home and fell asleep for three hours, am enjoying this cushy lifestyle of working from home, alongside a husband who runs out to do our farm pickups while I’m sleeping, with a kitchen that is currently stocked with bags of vegetables ready for us to cook and eat. I spent the morning working at The Jam with my friend Rachel, weighing the pros and cons of selling the car and buying a different one, buying a cheap second car, keeping the one we have until it won’t drive anymore—and while these decisions are difficult, they’re luxuries, too. When we left the car dealership yesterday, I was feeling pretty down about our finances, like I would need to go take a second job or rethink our entire budget, and yet here I am with a budget to finagle and think about to begin with.
It occurs to me as I’m writing this that there are many kinds of wealth, from the obvious material wealth of houses and cars and vacation homes to the more intangible wealth of relationships and freedom and thought. There is the shocking wealth of suffering, which I have tasted, and the way unexpected joy can surround you in a time when logically you wouldn’t think it could, when you’ve lost your baby or are hated by a family member or are staring at your budget, thinking things won’t add up. There is the wealth of knowing money won’t satisfy, while not needing to hate it at the same time. There’s the better wealth, the kind the soul knows, that lays up treasure nobody sees on earth. And there is the wealth of having food to eat, like lentils with shallots, strawberries and goat cheese, like any food at all, knowing it is the tool God gives you to nourish your body and keep it well.
Lentils with Shallots, Strawberries and Goat Cheese