Proverbs from the Poor
Insights on living below the margins.
On a blazing hot morning in mid-July, Church Under the Bridge in Waco met outside for worship, ate a meal, and celebrated being together. For twenty-eight years, this racially and economically diverse body has acknowledged that we don’t see things through the same lens, and that is precisely why we like to join hands.
For most of their lives, the wealthy who attend have been drilled with statements like “Time is money”; “Beggars can’t be choosers”; “Money talks”; “Fortune favours the bold”; “Knowledge is power”; “You reap what you sow”; “The end justifies the means”; “There is no such thing as a free lunch”; “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”; “Don’t cast pearls before swine”; “Every man is the architect of his destiny”; “Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile”; and “God helps those who help themselves.”
But the poor and marginalized among us have often embraced an entirely different set of proverbs. They say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”; “There is more to life than money”; “When one door shuts, another opens”; “Adversity and loss make a man wise”; “All that glitters is not gold”; “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”; “The best things in life are free”; “Clothes don’t make the man”; “Every dog has his day”; and “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
When asked to write a proverb on this particular morning, here is what came from both rich and poor as they sat together under the bridge. “Grieve well, live well”; “Sweep around your own front porch before you sweep around mine”; “Nothing worth having comes easy”; “No experience is lived in vain if you learn from it”; “Actions speak louder than words”; “Comfort is more of a threat to your relationship with Jesus than difficulties and trials”; “When the devil throws you a curve ball, hit it out of the park”; “Giving until it hurts is fulfilling”; “The world says, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’ but the faithful say, ‘I will see it when I believe it.’”
Most all of our church rejects cheap platitudes that are thrown around in our culture. Because they have “dwelt together” for so many years, shared values and statements have blended. Perhaps our men from the Christian residential treatment home said it best: “Do what you say; say what you mean.”
p.s. A few others came up in our service that caused a real chuckle:
“A hard head makes a soft bottom.”
“Never pet a burning dog.”
They loved/hated these two “urban proverbs” I quoted to them:
“You can’t know a city without using its transportation system.”
“History is written by the rich, so the poor will get blamed for everything.”