I am a beggar.
I view King Benjamin’s discussion of the beggar as the ultimate Mormon discourse on desert and wealth. Hugh Nibley spoke much on the topic as well. By his own admission, Nibley was drawing upon King Benjamin.
Mosiah Chapter 4:
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need ; and ye will not suffer that the “beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just-
18 But I say unto you, 0 man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent ; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay ; he has poured out his “Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then, how ye ought to aim part of the substance that ye have one to another.
This idea that we are all beggars is egalitarian is the sense that it views all people as needing God for these existence and wealth. Whether you are wealthy or poor, our existence depends on God. Hugh Nibley argued that to claim that one deserves wealth, is essentially to deny that God made it all possible.
But I am not just a figurative beggar. I am an actual beggar.
I have been unemployed for over a year now. Except for about 24 hours of part-time work (total), I have been out of work since January 2013.
When Congress cut off extended umemployment benefits on December 28, I was one of the people cut off.
But this post is not about government benefits. I have always supported such programs. That is well known.
However, what I want to address the spiritual and mental impact of being a beggar.
Being denied tenure and then almost immediately being dismissed from campus not only marked professional failure on my part, but it brought on a crushing sense of alienation, bitterness, and depression.
I had never realized how much standing in front of a classroom meant to me. I had never realized how much chatting with the English professors across the hall meant to me. Now it was gone.
At the same time that my professional life crumbled around me, my wife began her student teaching. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from BYU and had been working on a second degree in elementary education from a local university. We decided that we would move, and move to where ever Lyndee got a teaching position.
She got a position teaching first grade in Las Vegas. So we are now in fabulous Las Vegas and loving it.
However, we are barely making it. Luckily, the cost of living is not too bad here in Sin City. However, we are a family of five trying to make it half of our previous income. Keep in mind, I was a community college instructor. Half of that.
Things like free school lunch help stretch the budget and we have super supportive extended family members.
I have never felt more useless and worthless. White-male-privilege without an income is a wicked paradox.
I have started to forgive. While forgiveness does not pay the bills, it does lift some of the burden.
While I have always been an advocate for the beggar, my empathy has turned to sympathy. I have only had one call back about a full-time job. I have no more pride left. Pride is bad. Losing pride may not be a bad thing. But I have also lost much of my dignity. It is not gone…yet.
I am launching a new business venture in the near future. I hope it works out. Traditional work has eluded me. The prospect of a full-time position in higher education is gone. I am not even sure if I want one anymore.
My time out of work has allowed me to dream about what my dream position or job would be. With this new venture, I am going to make that happen (not try it, but do it).
I am tired. I am tired of being miserable. I am tired of hopelessness. I am tired of anger.
I am going to be happy. But there will be some begging along the way as I line up investors and partners.
I will always be a beggar.
Lord, can I go back to being a figurative beggar?
This has been horrible. My family is ready to flourish. No more just scraping by.
The best part of this period has been the constant reminders of who my true friends and allies are. They are my wife and three children. They have loved me on the hardest of days. They have mourned and suffered with me as I have wrestled with God.
What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.
I am still alive and my family is with me.
Time for the next chapter.