Three Lessons Learned About Wealth From Working With The Homeless

I have had the privilege of working with the homeless community as part of a job being an inner-city Pastor. I did not always view it this way. At first I viewed this responsibility as a burden. I felt overwhelmed, even unqualified. Here I was a Finance Pastor at a mega-church in an affluent suburb who was thrust into the quagmire of inner-city ministry. I had no idea or experience with the massive amount of challenges, including mental illness and drug addiction, associated with homelessness. In time I learned to not only accept my role but to embrace it as I was leading people to reach their goals and dreams, and learning as much as I was leading. I found people like you and me, loving, kind and generous. One area that I think I learned more than anything about was true wealth. That’s right, I received a tremendous education about wealth from leading and serving the homeless.

So here it goes: Here are three lessons I learned about wealth from working with the homeless:

#1. The Currency Of True Wealth Is More About TIME than Money

The homeless have almost nothing…but time. Time to think. Time to pray. Time to observe. Time to be in the moment. When you think about work and why we work, part of that motivation is to get time. Time to be with family. Time to go on vacation. Time to enjoy ourselves. Working with my homeless friends, I learned to expand my view of wealth to go beyond money and include time. Although the homeless have little monetary wealth, they have a wealth of time that I found priceless. It was so valuable to me to slow down and just be in the moment, connecting with people and enjoying their company. I came to really value time as a currency of a wealthy lifestyle.


#2. Generosity Magnifies, Not Reduces, The Feeling Of Wealth

It amazes me how much the homeless population shares with everyone; money, knowledge, food, clothes, batteries (a luxury), you name it. It is beautiful to watch people helping people in generous and caring ways. In the process of being a part of this sharing economy, it hit me that generosity generates a wealth of gratitude and contentment, far more than when you just store up your stuff for yourself. It doesn’t matter how much you have, it just matters that you’re willing to share whatever you do have.


#3. Living Within Your Means Produces A Wealth Of Financial Freedom!

Living within your means, spending less than you have, whether you have little or much, allows you the financial freedom to have more choices, spontaneity and generosity. Financial freedom eliminates anxiety and removes some of the uncertainty of the future. The result being more joy and contentment. The feeling of owing nothing and/or helping out a friend breeds a feeling of wealth and well-being.

My time leading a homeless community taught me much about wealth and I am better for it. The concept of Time, Generosity and Freedom, as major components of wealth, broadened my view and made me realize that we can be wealthy at any stage of our financial position.

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