by James Collins
“The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:2
“Collins,” the old sergeant snorted. “Putting you in that fancy dress uniform is like putting perfume on a pig.” The old sergeant was Sgt. 1st Class Luster, my platoon sergeant. Behind his back, we called him, Luster the heart-buster, because he ran us ten miles a day. He had served multiple tours in Vietnam. He was a hard man, but he knew his stuff. That was why I asked him to inspect my dress uniform. I had to look my best.
The year was 1992. I was a young enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army. Somehow, I had been chosen to have dinner with the President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. To this day, I still don’t know how I was chosen. Maybe it was White House charity. Maybe some politician said, “I’ve got an idea that will make us look good with the common folk. Let’s find the dumbest redneck in the armed forces and send him to an official state dinner.” It must have been something like that because I knew I didn’t belong there from the moment I entered.
The place was full of big-shots – corporate presidents, heads of state, politicians who hadn’t been caught yet, and Hollywood celebrities. Sylvester Stallone walked past me with a famous swim-suit model clinging to his arm. Tom Brokaw stood behind me in the entrance line.
We were ushered past a reception area. President Bush grabbed my hand and gave me a firm handshake. A photographer snapped our picture – a photograph which still hangs in my office today.
A man in a tuxedo escorted me to my table. I was seated across from President Bush next to a man from Boston. I think he owned Massachusetts or something. He had more money than the Kennedys.
“What’s your racket, young man?” he asked striking up a conversation with me.
“I’m an artist.” I could tell my answer surprised him.
“What kind of artist?”
“I’m a painter. I paint men and women.”
“Is your work well known?”
“Yes, it is in some of the most respected places,” I said, which wasn’t a lie. I painted “MEN” and “WOMEN” on the bathroom doors at Fort Knox.
When it was time to eat, I panicked. There were four forks. I didn’t know which one to use. So, I watched George H.W. and the rich guy next to me. I just used whatever fork they used. The meal was elegant – seven courses. If I had to pay for it, I am sure it would have cost my mortgage.
All evening long, even in my Luster the heart-buster inspected uniform, I felt out of place. If you put perfume on a pig, the pig still stinks. I was just a penniless boy from the country. I was worried one of those elegant sophisticates would discover an imposter was among their midst. I didn’t belong. We had nothing in common.
Yet, when President Bush died in November of 2018, I realized we did in fact have something in common – the Lord is our Maker. Both millionaire Bush and minimum-wager Collins have the same Creator. The Lord is the maker of us all.
The point is: God has given life to both the rich and the poor. No matter where you fall on the income scale, you owe your existence to God Almighty.
Since He has given life to you, wouldn’t it be wise to live for Him?
It makes more sense than putting perfume on a pig.
James Collins is pastor, columnist, and author. You can write to him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.