A rich white man who’d lost all his fortunes, woke up on the psych unit where I worked during the recession. He thought taking his life was the answer to losing what he’d learned had been everything; money, status, caviar. In the weeks that followed his new reality, he joined our partial hospital program for intensive therapy, five days a week alongside men and women living with acute mental illness, the majority of whom had lived in poverty most of their lives. Some were homeless.

We adopted the rich man into our family, serving him coffee, making space for him at the table, acquainting him to life in the Program. As the rich man continued adjusting to life as a mere mortal, he shared more about his fears of losing not just his money, home and the legacy of his business but also his friends, comforts, purpose, value, societal authority and sense of identity. He still lived in his big house, so when the medical van came to pick him up each morning the other group members got to marvel at some of what the rich man was preparing to leave behind.

They talked about the tall gated fence and the long drive from the main road down the private, gravel road to the impressive facade of columns, bricks and the kind of grandeur we didn’t have words to describe. As they wondered what life was like inside, I was mindful about protecting his grief, interjecting thoughts like a gentle paddle to steer us back to the middle of the stream. I won’t lie. Early on, it took extra work not to hit him with that paddle, which would’ve been all too easy given the circumstances, but watching his face as the others oohed and ahhed the requiem of his success, I knew his self-awareness was punishment enough.

We listened, heard and extended compassion for his fears. Some of the men brought him bags of clothes and shoes as others had done for them when they hit hard times. The rich man humbly accepted their offerings, at one point moving his wet eyes from an empty spot on the floor to the place where I stood as if to ask me to share in his recognition of what the moment meant. He may have always known better but now, as the offerings sat in his lap, he was, quite literally, left holding the paper bag.

As a group we stared down questions of inequality, only to arrive at more questions, learning to sit in the uncomfortable silence of what we still didn’t know. The one thing that continued moving us forward until the rich man’s ‘graduation’ (he was forced to leave when his new, less good insurance ran out) was compassion; the compassion we showed him, which he returned to us and eventually might’ve had for himself.


This is a my gently edited response to a vegan activist’s question about inequality which I’ve since deleted because it wanted to live here instead. Fun fact: the answer to any question is Love in one of its unlimited permutations. This story wants to be better but I’m researching agents and editing interview questions, a keynote and a novel…and at some point have to call my mum. xo

The photos are from a trip to Mendocino a couple of years ago; that place is my forever dreamscape.

16 thoughts on “Parable of the Rich Man

  1. I love you E. I was reading this feeling so much. It is difficult to watch difficult, ironic, unexpected, overwhelming(on both ends because I have have had the paddle too) ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s like a bouquet of perspectives. Every angle has such a different view. But you are always on point with the solution…Love. I kid you not, the more I try to Love every single person I meet, the better this life gets ๐Ÿ™‚ When you need an assistant. Or as I like to refer to it a buffer. A buffer is what you need to get all the important stuff done which is the writing ๐Ÿ™‚ Hit me up. Hahaha ๐Ÿ™‚ I can work remotely, Right out of my closet as a matter fact. LORD willing I can do anything ๐Ÿ™‚ He Loves me ๐Ÿ™‚

    I do have a question. Which you don’t have to answer and you know I will Love you if you don’t answer haha ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t understand this: “Iโ€™ve since deleted because it wanted to live here instead.” I feel I usually “get” you but this when over my head which is fine but it peaked my curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love you too Mags. Youโ€™re so funny ๐Ÿ˜Š and so right on about Love. Iโ€™ve been getting the same message over and over lately about how the only thing that gives our lives true meaning is connection and Love to and for each other.
      You wanna be my assistant! ๐Ÿ˜‚ We all need a little help from our friends, huh? Thanks.
      Iโ€™m happy to answer your question. Iโ€™d posted this piece originally as a comment to a question and then decided it would be safer and have more meaning if I posted here as a proper story rather than a comment where it might go to waste. Hope that clears up the mystery. I find inspiration for writing usually comes through dialogue with other people, rather than in the vacuum of my own thoughts.
      Hope you had a good Sunday. โค๏ธ

      Liked by 1 person

      • So funny ๐Ÿ™‚ I will write a mile long comment and then delete it hahaha. I don’t know why. I should cut it and paste it to a draft and make a blog out of it like you did. You are brilliant ๐Ÿ™‚

        Yes ma’am as far as the assistant goes but I prefer to be referred to as a buffer ๐Ÿ™‚ I am very good at doing many things at once and doing them well ๐Ÿ™‚ My mission statement is you are accessible when you want to be, the rest of the time they deal with me ๐Ÿ™‚ Everyone will be delighted and delightful when they do get access to you. Doubting Thomas was the initial reaction but I always got a raise by the 2nd week hahaha ๐Ÿ™‚ true story ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Sunday was great. Hubby is back home now YA! We were on the road moving all our stuff from one state to back here to our full time home. I won’t have to drive 8 hours twice a week any more and I am so thankful! Praise the LORD.

        How is your weekend and now week going? I hope all is well ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Card carrying members of the mile long comment club. *delete* haha. And yes, you should blog it. I think I discovered part of my writing voice in comment sections.
        I love the idea of a personal buffer. Can I bring you to my next family function? Haha. Mags youโ€™re hilarious; a raise. Maybe your calling is comedy?
        Hooray for hubby being home! An 8 hour drive twice a week sounds awful. Glad you donโ€™t have to do that anymore. Are you all dried out now since the big flood?
        It was such a good weekend. Got a ton done (finding agents, writing, sleeping!) and it was warm. This weekโ€™s been chilly and Iโ€™ll never be a fan of waking up in the dark to an alarm. Maybe Iโ€™ll borrow your mission statement to buffer the mornings: dear morning, Iโ€™m inaccessible until further notice.
        Hope youโ€™re having a good week Mags.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That does sound crazy. Ugh. Glad you finally have a roof but wish we lived in a more just world. All the fancy neighborhoods were rebuilt in two shakes after Katrina. Meanwhile the rest of the world waits.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve also rather used a comment I made to inspire a post. It’s true that in exchanges one surpasses, surprise oneself. Hard on the rich guy. So often the poor in the position of mentor, if only a few more would listen instead of opine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pride is like stuffing in the ears. Iโ€™m probably guilty of the same thing, or at the very least just stubborn? We donโ€™t tend to take advice until the rug gets pulled out from under us.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, that’s some perspective. I can understand about the paddle and wanting to hit people with it. O:-). Thanks for sharing this. …that abalone shell looks familiar! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good luck for your keynote; thinking of you and sending good vibes! โค

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sophie. The shell photo likely showed up in another post. Or maybe it reminds you of you something?
      Thanks for the good vibes! โค๏ธ


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