My curiosity got the better of me. I typically have no interest in any of the reality shows that clog our airwaves these days. The counterfeit, cringe-worthy, narcissistic drama of the typical soap opera masquerading as reality is far from Christian entertainment. But when I saw the advertisement for the new Fox show Secret Millionaire I was intrigued.
The setup, for those unfamiliar, is that millionaires make a show of leaving their plush palaces for a week to go slumming incognito for a week with just $110 to live on for the duration. The object if for these fortunate folks to see how the other 80% live and to seek out those in these depressed communities helping their fellow man. At the end of the week, they dramatically reveal their wealth to the folks they have met and give at least $100,000 of their own money to those in need.
I will admit that my curiosity was tempered by what I expected to be the format of the show. Plenty of forced drama, long takes, and icky condescension. In this regard, my expectations were met. The producers make quite a show of the wealth of the clandestine well to do. Admittedly, my icko-meter really spikes at the view of such public and semi-masturbatory philanthropy.
With all that said, I have found he show riveting in a way I did not expect. I find the journey of the rich from narcissistic bluster to Christmas morning Ebenezer enlightenment rather mundane. What grabbed me is the people they encounter along the way. Last week, A wealthy father and son, while removing items from their shopping cart for fear of running out of money, encountered a woman on the supermarket line who inquired about their situation. They noticed that she was buying a lot of food and milk and they asked her why. She said that she runs a kitchen for the 30+ homeless out of her house. Intrigued, they offered to help her with her home with the groceries.
At her house they saw that she not only fed the homeless but sheltered a few, including families and children as well. This woman did all this without grants or trust funds. She fed and sheltered dozens of people each day with little more than her social security check and the love in her heart. This lady had nothing and she helped more people each day than I probably ever have.
This week we met woman who got hooked on drugs when her child died and spent fifteen years in and out of prison. She finally got her life back on track and henceforth devoted it to sheltering and helping other women, newly released from prison,adjust to life on the outside. She found women dropped at the bus stop straight from prison with nothing but $200. She takes them in and helps them back on their feet. She had nothing, but now gives everything she has, her widow’s mite.
Unmistakable in the lives of these secret saints, albeit not emphasized on the show, is the role of faith. Their faith manifests in their lives as love and charity at levels I thought existed only in books about the lives of saints from bygone eras. People like this don’t exist anymore, right? I, like the millionaires I find slightly icky, just write checks and congratulate myself even while knowing the checks could and should be bigger.
While I am far from a millionaire, I realize more now that there is more to charity than writing a check. I have a lot more to give than just money. I could and should be giving more of myself. If I did, perhaps then I would be more than just a poorer version of those very public millionaires, and I could be more like these secret saints and more like Christ.