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The Breakdown at the Bottom

I walked hastily through the automatic double doors and hopped into my vehicle as quickly as I could.  After throwing the small yellow plastic bag into the passenger seat I fumbled to put the keys into the ignition and fasten my seat belt.  Taking a deep breath I settle back into the seat but find myself pushed back into nervousness and embarrassment as I hear the sounds of people exiting out the front of the store.  I keep my head down, not wanting to make eye contact and hoping that they weren't looking.  From the corner of my eye, I realize that it wasn't the people who were behind me and with a sigh of relief I pull into reverse and exit the parking lot.

I can feel the possibility of tears but I have cried enough today and instead decide to force a smile.  I speak out to God in a half prayer, half conversation to myself:

"One day, my life will be better than what it is right now.

One day I will have all that I need and more.  I will have more than enough and be able to bless someone else.

I will be more than what I am right now.  I will have more because God has given me more than enough and I don't believe You want me to settle where I am right now.  I pray that my life can be used to glorify You and that others may see Your light in me.

I am NOT done. I am NOT quitting.  I will NOT give up.  I will have more one day but I will not forget Lord."

I will remember what it felt like to count out change while sitting in the store's parking lot, knowing that I have a dollar and 52 cents on my Paypal card (what remains from surveys that I do online for cash).  I will remember that I needed only two items to make a quick meal of chili dogs for the night.

I will remember nervously walking to the checkout with the items in my hand, a bag of hot dog buns and off brand chips, looking around to make sure that no one was behind me.

I will remember nervously laughing and making small talk with the cashier as she scanned the items and complimented me on my hair.

I will remember telling her that I would be using both cash and card for the transaction total of 2 dollars and 25 cents and handing over the dollar in change that I had previously gathered only for her to count it aloud before me. I laugh to myself and the realization of this small but complicated situation.

I will remember hoping that the people coming up behind me to checkout don't realize my embarrassment of having to split a transaction for $2.25 because I didn't have the total in cash or on my card to use as whole.

I will remember the brand new cashier not knowing how to split the transaction and having to wait for her to suspend the items after my request to help the people waiting behind me.  Does she look at me with my freshly done hair (which I did myself) and made over face and wonder why I can't pay?  She doesn't know I'm all dressed up because I just came back from visiting my incarcerated husband.  She doesn't know that I didn't even pay for that but received it as a gift. What about the assistant manager that eventually had to come complete the process?  Did he find it as ridiculous as I did that he was dividing the total? Maybe he was like me and understood the struggle.  Maybe he'd seen it far too many times as I did in my days of working as a retail cashier.  Maybe he'd been in that situation too.

I will remember the days of working a government job that made a pretty good salary, but was just enough to put me right on the line of poverty, making too much to qualify for assistance myself but not making enough to live comfortably with one income.  My day's were spent working nights as a janitor, cleaning offices similar to the cubicle I worked in full time.

I'll remember hoping that they still would not catch on and apologizing nervously as we waited.

I will remember half hoping that they would offer up to go ahead and pay for the items, but also half hoping that they wouldn't, knowing that I would only refuse it while fighting back tears of despair.  I think to myself they're probably struggling themselves.  I will have enough one day to help that struggling person in front of me in line.  I think of all the times I stood behind someone who didn't have enough and wished that I could chip in on their purchase, wished that I could be a blessing to a stranger, but I didn't have it either.

I wonder to myself if they have any sympathy for me, if they wish they could help too or if they are secretly laughing to themselves about why I can't afford to pay $2.25.  2 dollars and 25 cents, the total lit up on the small black screen in big bright green block numbers for all those to be able to see, I will remember those numbers staring back at me... and I had to split the transaction.

One day I will be able to help that person and I will not forget what it felt like.  One day I WILL have more than what I have right now, but I will not forget these times and these struggles... and not having that $2.25.

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