Thankfully Humbled

When most people think of Thanksgiving and Norman Rockwell, the painting that usually comes to mind is this one.  “Freedom From Want”:

The one that usually comes to MY mind is this one:  “Thanksgiving: Girl Praying”:

I’m sad to say that more people probably relate more to the latter because of personal tragedy and a failing economy.  You see these TV specials and reality shows about families losing their homes and struggling to make ends meet without falling into a tar-pit of debt.  Unless you’re a pompous braggart, we’re all cinching in the belt these days.

My friend sent me this article called “Seeing Past What it Seems” from over at the Brave Girls Club.   Please take a few minutes to read it.  I had an experience a few days ago and this story struck a raw and sensitive nerve with me.

I drove past a hand-written sign: “MOVING SALE!”  Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about some moving sales.  So I made a U-Turn and followed the arrows through an affluent neighborhood and parked in front of a beautiful home with a perfectly manicured lawn.  There were only a couple of things in the front yard and my first thought was, “Dadgummit!  I’m too late!”

But when I got closer to the house, I saw another sign on the front door.

“EVERYTHING FOR SALE.  FOOD INCLUDED.”

Hm.  Odd.  So I walked through the front door and immediately felt like I was trespassing.  There weren’t tables stacked with books, picture frames and glassware.  As a matter of fact, I didn’t see a price on anything.  It looked like a normal house with no sign of an impending move.  Confused, I walked back out front to ask the owners what the protocol was.  They were busy talking with another couple who had wandered in.

The conversation I over-heard nearly brought me to tears.  Both the husband and wife (looked to be in their mid 50’s) had lost their jobs that they’d been with for years and years.  Because of their age, it had become virtually impossible to find new employment.  They used their savings to pay the mortgage and bills, as well as keep their health insurance paid.  Eventually that ran out, their home was about to be foreclosed on and they were forced to file for bankruptcy.

“Even if we sell every single thing in the house and every scrap of food…we’ll barely break even.”

They went on to say that they’d lived in their house over 20 years and had raised their family there.  I can’t even begin to describe the look of sadness etched across their faces.  It was actually far beyond sadness.  More like a deep and throbbing ache in the marrow of their bones.  Yet in the eye of that pain was a deep-rooted strength that you could almost see pulsing.  Like they knew they’d somehow pull through this.

A couple of heffers who had stood there and heard the entire conversation had the gaul and audacity to ask the owners to come down on the price of a $5 lamp.  And you know what?  The woman smiled graciously and said, “How does $2 sound?”

I went straight back into the house and made up my mind to get $20 worth of their belongings.  What’d I get?  Two bolts of fabulous fabric.  It didn’t come to $20….but I gave them $20 anyway.  The woman was thrilled her fabric was going to someone who sewed.  I couldn’t stand there and have a conversation with her.  I was afraid I’d burst into tears.  I barely made it to my car before the dam burst.

The sadness eventually morphed into anger.  I was angry because we live in the richest country in the world and this type of thing is happening with more and more regularity.  I was angry because this honest, hard-working couple were losing everything they’d worked so hard for.  Not because of an irresponsible lifestyle or the inability to manage their money…but because of a failing economy that they didn’t personally have anything to do with.

My anger only escalated later that day at the grocery store.  Another couple…young…probably in their 20’s…were purchasing two over-flowing carts of top-shelf, expensive food and beverages.  They were designer-styled from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes with so much bling in between it was almost embarrassing.  Then they whipped out their food-stamp card…too busy to acknowledge the hard-working cashier because they were to engrossed with their party plans for the weekend.  But what lit the wick on my anger bomb was seeing them drive off in a 2010 Escalade with rims that cost more than some people’s house.  And the kicker?  Oh yes…there’s more.  They had vanity plates.  Care to guess?  I’ll save you the suspense.

LODED.

Now, I know we’re supposed to love one another and turn the cheek and all that jazz.  But when I walk away from a family losing their home, having to sell all of their beloved belongings to barely scrape by…..and see people on welfare driving $30K cars and buying expensive gourmet food?  Yeah.  I’ve got a problem with that.

I see a system so seriously flawed and void of conscience that it makes me sick to have money taken out of my check every month to finance the whole party.

So this year, I’m thankful for your standard, run-of-the-mill Thanksgiving things: Family, food, comfort, home, etc.  But I think more than anything, I’m humbled.  Maybe it’s humility that brings hearts and souls together.  Instead of saying, “Me first”, you say, “No, YOU go first.”  It’s seeing everyone around you as equal…and treating them as thus.  It’s about standing WITH others…not above them.

And to the family who sold me their fabric….I plan to make something special with it.  I’m not sure what, yet.  Just something to remind me of the fragility of life.  To honor this family’s grace and dignity in the face of tragedy….and to thank them for teaching me a profound life-lesson.

Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.
— Author Unknown

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6 Responses

  1. Wow, this was really inspiring. I share many of the same opinions as you do in this piece, and I am left sitting here about to cry, but also wanting to really go out and serve my local community. I believe in hard work to get where you are, but also in humbling yourself to help others who are struggling. Thank you for the eye-opener!

  2. WOW! We are experiencing some scary times right now. Your perspectives encourage me and I share your frustration.

    You have already made something special with the fabric. I will think of it often.

  3. […] When most people think of Thanksgiving and Norman Rockwell, the painting that usually comes to mind is this one.  "Freedom From Want": The one that usually comes to MY mind is this one:  "Thanksgiving: Girl Praying": I'm sad to say that more people probably relate more to the latter because of personal tragedy and a failing economy.  You see these TV specials and reality shows about families losing their homes and struggling to make ends meet wit … Read More […]

  4. I can so relate to this! Please remember to think of thoses you have worked with that have lost their jobs and their “work Family”. Drop them a card especially if was a “involuntary separation”. If is very hard to find jobs if you were in a job for a long time and are in the 45 and up group. It is hard to lose the friends you had a work because for some of us that all the friends we had beside our families and with families spread out. You get the picture. Thank you so much for this post and for the “Thanksgiving Girl Praying”

  5. Great post. It’s sad that your post is blatantly true though, yet we often ignore it.

  6. Here in South Africa the situation is truly dire amongst the very poor. We have, as a country, recently spent billions on the Soccer World Cup but cannot feed half of the population. The disabled are in the worst position because they cannot work and the government couldn’t be bothered to put a proper infra-structure in place to help them. Yet our politicians are some of the best paid IN THE WORLD!

    My husband’s business has no business but I am gratefully still able to work for pay and the climate is conducive to planting veggies. How fortunate we are!

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