I think I’ll just start typing and see where the words take me today. I have a story to tell, but there are many dimensions to it and I’m not sure what is the most significant element.
I’ll start at the beginning and we shall see where we end up…
Yesterday, I went to the grocery store with my sister to pick up a few things that the family needed. I say needed because we’ve been in a sort of financial dilemma for the last couple of months.
By dilemma, I mean that a combination of miscalculations on my part and factors outside of my control have combined to mean that there is just not enough money.
We’ve eaten down the pantry and freezer and are being creative about meal making. No worries, we are pretty creative types. Still, honestly, there has been some stress around our household about the situation.
Anyway, I arrive at the grocery store with my sister and as we are parking we notice a young family with four small children standing around a car with the hood up. Various car parts that appear to be from the engine are leaning up against the car.
It is obviously a bad situation, but since I know nothing about engine repair and don’t know what I might offer to do to help in this situation, I continue into the store with my sister to purchase what I need to feed the family through the weekend.
I complete my purchases, excited that by combining markdowns, sales and coupons, I am able to buy quite a bit for a relatively small amount of money. To be completely honest, I didn’t spend more than we had available so I won’t overdraw the account. Life is good.
On our way out of the store, that same family is at the service desk. The four children are sitting quietly nearby, Mom and Dad are doing something with some Western Union paperwork. My sister walks over to talk with them and upon completing the conversation discretely hands the dad all of the cash that she has. My sister does stuff like this all the time. She’s a giver.
I help my sister out to the car and while unloading our groceries, I ask her what their story is.
The mom had landed a job cleaning at a hotel just up the street from the grocery store. The hotel was letting the family stay in a room while she worked there. She got laid off because they were overstaffed. The family had resorted to living in their car which had now broken down. They had found someone to fix the car, but were attempting to make arrangement to get everything done.
Four kids, no job, no home…
I don’t know what choices or decisions guided them to that grocery store and that parking lot and that situation.
I’m not even sure that I completely understand the choices and decisions that have landed me where I am today.
The journey is complicated and we make a thousand choices and decisions along the way. Sometimes, we take the right turn. Sometimes, not. Anyone of us could end up homeless with a broken down car in a parking lot. Of that, I am sure. For millions around the world, that would be a step up. Life is crazy that way.
What I do know is that in that moment I was hit full force with the realization that “need” is relative. I had just purchased groceries that I was certain that I was in “need” of.
Now, in comparison with the “needs” of this family they seemed like luxuries.
I did some calculations in my head and went back in and purchased a gift card for the family. The groceries I had purchased for the next few days will need to stretch further than I had planned. I’m okay with that. I’ll be eating them in my house at my dining room table. My family will have a car to drive to work in. There is a paycheck coming in the future. It won’t be enough, but we will make it work.
I wanted to do more, but at least I know that they won’t be hungry for a day or two. And I hope and pray that they hold hope in their hearts and that there journey will become easier.
I have continued to think about that trip to the store.
Did I do enough?
What else could I have done?
What was my responsibility?
If “need” is relative, what standard do I use to determine our needs vs wants?
Many choices and decisions.
Lots more to think about.
Need vs Want.
The journey continues.