I bought a snack today from a street vendor near my house. She makes these little bread things with sugar inside. Basically they take a ball of dough, make an indentation in it and and put a spoonful of sugar in the middle. They pull up the sides and seal it, then roll it flat. Then they cook it on the inside wall of a large barrel. They also sprinkle it with a few sesame seeds. They sell for 1 RMB each, which is about the equivalent of 15 cents U.S. I like to eat them, but I also like to support the little family that makes them.Today I had a friend with me, so asked for two. They told me they wanted to cook some fresh ones for us, so we waited while they made them.
As we waited, they began talking to me and asking me all kinds of questions. One of the questions they asked me made me feel a little uncomfortable. She asked me if Americans have a lot of money. How do you explain the greatness of America to someone who sells cooked bread treats on the street in China? How can she even begin to understand America's wealth? I fumbled for words, but finally said, "Everyone is different." It's true; not all Americans have money. And how could I explain that just having a lot of money doesn't mean you have that much to spend? But the mere fact that I have a mortgage probably qualifies me as rich, even if paying it takes a huge chunk of our money. Maybe understanding just how wealthy we are is as hard for her, as understanding just how poor she is would be hard for me.
One uncomfortable moment came when she pointed to a couple of rings I was wearing and asked how much they cost. I bought these two rings at a store that sells things made by native Americans. I only paid about $10 for each. When I told her how much they cost, she seemed surprised. She said that to buy the same thing in China would cost thousands. I wondered if she thought they were white gold instead of silver, so I told her they aren't gold. But then I wondered if even $10 US would seem expensive to her.
It's times like these that I really am forced to face the fact that by and large Americans do have a lot of money. Even the poorest of Americans have more than the poorest in China. I really do wish that we all could be equal, but I don't think that will happen in this life. And I am reminded that with great blessings comes great responsibility. I hope that in my life time I can do enough good to make up for what I have been given.