“Crap, how do I pay all these bills this month,” I cried out loud, looking at the dwindling balance scrawled in my checkbook. A recent real estate deal I was working on wouldn’t close for another month, and my stocks had taken a horrific hit because of the mess our country—our world—was going through. Since I became a single mom twenty-one years ago, money (or the lack of it) has been the bane of my existence and the source of much anxiety, causing many a sleepless night.
As a young working single woman, I only had myself to be concerned with. Each pay period, I put my income into categories: rent, utilities, food, savings, and fun. As a married woman, it was even easier. I never worried much about finances. We were a team, and the finances didn’t fall into my basket of responsibility. This worked perfectly until I had children, and money seemed to flow out the door. Eventually, their father put me on a tight budget, which never seemed to work because I wanted the kids to have everything (and I do mean everything). Once my son was born, I decided I needed to relieve some of the pressure and started finding part-time gigs.
Then we split up, and the enormity of what it took to keep a house and home running smoothly nearly gave me a heart attack. I was now responsible for the mortgage, insurance (both health and home), taxes, and private education for four teenagers. This not only created panic attacks but massive weight loss. After not working a real job in over twenty-five years I was being called back to full-time employment. Though things seemed to always work out thanks to an angel on my shoulder who constantly guided me, I could help but panic when the coffers got low.
Recently, I’ve been doing some work on my home—little odds and ends to keep my most significant investment running smoothly. I’ve taught myself how to replace light fixtures, how to maneuver a chainsaw for the removal of dead branches on a tree, how to fix minor plumbing issues, and how to do some interior painting. Doing these things myself brought pride, plus saved a lot of moolah.
Picking up some paint at the local Ace Hardware for my bathroom cabinet, I notice a Hispanic man of small stature in advanced years standing in line in front of me. Looking worn out from a long day of dust and grime, he wore a tattered blue bandana around his neck, an accessory he most likely pulled over his mouth to protect his lungs while working. His gnarled fingers pulled out a credit card to pay for a new red bandana. As he inserted it into the gizmo for payment, the sweet girl from behind the counter whispered in Spanish, “It didn’t go through.” With head bent low, he pulled out another card and tried again. She gave him the same response. Pushing the cloth away, he nodded and headed for the door. How my heart ached for him.
“How much is that?” I found myself asking her.
“Three fifty,” was her reply. In an instant, I was hit with how different our lives were.
“Please call him back; I’ll pay for it.”
As he took the bandana, he bowed his head in thanks. I, on the other hand, mentally gave thanks for all my prosperity.
While it’s true there’ve been times where I had to cut back (a very painful process, for I love shopping), I’ve never known a reality where my bills don’t get paid. I’ve never been late on a credit card nor missed a mortgage installment. There’s always food in my kitchen, even if it’s just a can of soup, and heat in my home. At times there wasn’t enough for fluff or fun, but my needs have always been met. That day, I walked away upset that I’d let fear get in the way once again, forgetting how fortunate I truly was.
It’s been said money is a source of energy—energy that provides a service. It would be cavalier, maybe even stupid, to say it doesn’t matter, for it does! We need an income to live. But it’s the emphasis we put on money that matters. Do we horde it, angst over it, work to stockpile it? Or do we honor and be grateful for what it can bring to our lives? Maybe we even share it.
While I’m sure one day I’ll find myself wallowing again when I must cut back and not spend the way I love to—on pretty things for my home, dinners with my children, or toys for the grandchildren—I plan to remember this day in the hopes I become centered quickly once again.
As I left, I watched him drive away in a beat-up Subaru with the back fender loose and exhaust pipe hanging low. Crawling into my perfectly kept Ford Edge, I prayed, “Thank you, God, for reminding me how blessed I am! Money will come, and money will go, but you’ve allowed me always to be okay.”