So Labor Day weekend, while y’all were trying to find cookouts to crash so you didn’t have to make your own dinner and wash your own dishes, this was happening, in case you missed it: click here.
You knew it was about to jump off in there because at the 1:09 mark, Tyler Perry said “Gawd.” In everyday, regular conversation, He’s “God.” But when something’s getting ready to break out—a sermon, a shout, a string of tongues, somethin’—that “w” slides up in there. And sure enough, he was so led to announce that his checkbook was about to turn up a million dollars lighter, right before he put his hands on the good bishop. You know the rest.
I’ll reserve judgment about whether it was all choreographed for the spiritual arousal of the saints in the house. I can’t know that for sure and honestly, that’s between T.P., T.D. and J.C. anyway. The video extracted lots of buzz from hallelujahing Christian folks and poo-pooing skeptics, but whether it was staged or spontaneous, the fact of the matter is that man’s bank account and his generosity aligned in a mighty big way. As a gal who has to confirm and double confirm and sometimes re-re-confirm with the good Lord before I cough up an offering above and beyond my tithes—not necessarily because I don’t want to, but I can’t always afford to—I was inspired.
Tyler Perry wasn’t born into enormous wealth, a family with old money or the privileges that come with celebrity. He earned those after a string of failed plays and trial-and-error lessons in the business of theater. Under a machine-gun barrage of criticism that he seems to be armored against (probably because he can now write million dollar checks whenever the Holy Spirit says the word), he built his own started-from-the-bottom success story and is at liberty to give whenever to whomever and however much he darn well pleases.
There are two kinds of people in the world: folks who’ve paid for gas with change and folks who haven’t. If you’ve never had to muster up your little bit of pride to tell the cashier “Gimme a dollar thirty-two on pump six”—and experienced the adrenaline rush of seeing how far that little whiff of petro was actually going to take you—consider yourself blessed and highly favored.
I’ve done the broke thing. It sucks and it’s stressful, but being broke will make you empathetic to the challenges other folks are staring down. It forces you to be creative and resourceful. Some of our most treasured art, beloved meals, snazzy fashion and favorite music were birthed from folks who were just getting by. Brokeness can stir up the best in us. You can’t help but have a sense of humor when you have 48 cents in your checking account. Most of us would never dream of whipping out a gun and pulling a stick-up job. So you laugh. And you do the best you can. And you vow to always remember the days of have-not so you can be the first one to help others when you do have. The sacrifices of one season will harvest the fruits of prosperity in another.
Struggle doesn’t look as ugly as it did a few years ago, but there was good in it, even when it was on full throttle. It made me more tolerant, kind and understanding. Something positive came out of it. It always does. Now I have my sights set on being among the good-hearted and wealthy. I actually always did. I respect Tyler Perry for his investment of effort and energy, his perseverance, his dedication to his dream and his come-up, but I really respect his readiness to give. I’m just trying to get close to where he is.
Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.