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Wednesday, April 3, 2013
12:00 AM | Posted by Tara
Standing behind the counter of the convenience store, Kate eyed the clock anxious for this Friday to be done so she could collect her girls from school and get her check cashed. A customer approached the register and Kate smiled congenially. The customer was not in a good mood, tossed her purchase on the counter and snarked, “These cost eight cents more than last week!”
Kate attempted to negate the customer’s dissatisfaction, “They are really good. I guess people are snapping them up. Is there anything else you need?”
The woman shook her head ‘no’, paid for her purchases, and departed only slightly appeased. Shooting a glance to the clock, Kate sighed. The store often got busy around this time of day and sometimes her relief was late, causing her to go over on her time. The manager was very strict about going over on the clock. Even when it wasn’t her fault, he would reprimand her and, unless it was thirty minutes, he didn’t pay her for the extra time. Though she knew that was illegal, she couldn’t afford to lose her job by confronting him. She hoped this day would not be one of those run over days. Five more minutes and another day would be done. The time dragged. It was now five minutes past her shift end and there was still no sign of Carl, the third shift attendant.
The store became thick with customers as people were getting off work, buying gas on their way home for the weekend, and stocking up on snacks or last minute items. A good number of customers came through the line. Apparently, her distress was showing as the woman now standing before her asked, “Are you alright?”
Shaking off the anxiety that was making her tense, Kate responded brightly. “Yes, thank you. I am just ready to go home.”
“Yes,” Kate answered as she attended to the woman’s check out then asked, “Is there anything else you need?”
The woman glanced down to the lottery tickets in the counter display and said, “Yes, give me two of the Jackpot tickets.”
Swiftly, Kate tore off the tickets and the woman handed her payment. Kate gave her change and the receipt. The woman delayed her departure, smiling broadly at Kate and pushing one of the lottery tickets toward her. Patting the ticket, the woman announced, “That’s for you. Good luck.” Then, the woman scooted out the door.
In shock, Kate looked after the woman and managed a thank you just as the woman exited the door. The next customer was waiting, impatiently. Kate tucked the ticket into her pocket and went back to work. Just short of the thirty minutes that would get her paid, her replacement appeared. Kate hurried out, eager to pick up her daughters.
It was Saturday morning and the rain was falling hard. Forced by the gusting wind, it beat against the window pane. The day echoed Kate’s emotions. After putting gas in the car, buying a few groceries and setting aside that week’s portion of the rent, Kate’s Friday pay was reduced to $3.48 cents. Having lost her well paying job eleven months ago, by no fault of her own, along with her condo in the better part of town, life was looking bleak. Her meager savings account was depleted and she was concerned that she wouldn’t make it to her next paycheck.
A small voice broke her deliberation, as her youngest daughter queried, “Can we go to the movies?”
Washing away her melancholy, Kate turned to her daughter with a smile, “No, honey. We can’t afford it. How about we play a game instead?”
Nine year old Ellen’s face puckered into a pout as she complained, “We always used to go to the movies on Saturday and we don’t have television. Couldn’t we, please.”
With affection, Kate soothed, “I know. I wish we could afford television or go to the movies, but there just isn’t any money for that right now.”
“I don’t like being poor.”
Collecting her daughter in her arms, Kate admonished, “You are not poor. We have more than many people. We have a roof to keep us dry and food to eat, that is much more than some people have.” As Kate issued these words, her thoughts were filled with the potential of what could happen if she missed even one day of work.
Wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck Ellen whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too, but we’ll be okay.”
Ellen’s big sister, Kelly, was leaning in the doorway. At the ripe old age of eleven she was very wise and caring and she smiled at the two asking, “What game are we going to play…as if I didn’t already know it will be Scrabble, since that is the only game we have.”
With a high pitched titter, Ellen announced, “I’ll get it.”
The three played several rounds of scrabble, laughing at some of the words and challenging others with look ups in the dictionary. It was Kate’s turn and she was mulling over what she might construct with the letters on her tray. Seeing she could make the word ticket, she placed the tiles on the board. As she dropped the last letter, she remembered the lottery ticket still in her pocket from the previous day. Not wanting to raise hopes only to dash them, she excused herself and secretively located the ticket. Gently, she scratched off all the coverage on the ticket and examined the results several times—just to be sure. The ticket was a twenty dollar winner.
The tears would not be held away. Kate slid down the wall and whaled, unable to contain the emotion. Promptly, Ellen and Kelly came to her, covering her over with love and affection in an attempt to console her. When her emotion finally found ground, she showed them the ticket and asked, “So what movie do you want to see?”
There were a number of everyday heroines in this little slice of life. First, there was the woman who chose to ‘shine a light’ on Kate. Though the woman didn’t know Kate, she connected with her distress and made a small gesture toward acknowledging it. Second, there was Kate, who typifies many single mothers of today faced with hard choices, including the choice of staying within the ‘light’ of love and caring rather than falling into the ‘dark’ of drugs, abuse, and neglect. Then there were her daughters. They chose to be supportive and stick together.
As we go through our lives, we often become oblivious to the people around us that we do not know. When was the last time you actually looked the cashier, receptionist, attendant, or waitperson in the eye? Take the initiative to ‘come aware’ of those around you. That is the only way you will ever see an opportunity to change a life. Sometimes even the smallest of kindnesses offer huge impacts. Something as slight as a smile could be all it takes. Commit random acts of kindness for you never know when your kindness will be just the thing someone needs in that moment.
“In a world filled with darkness, choose to be a light.”
Morgan Summerfield is a published author, a painter, a mother, and a grandmother. Many say she is possessed by her passions. She will tell you she is infatuated with fiction and an avid seeker of knowledge. Her background is diverse, having worked in many areas, including, teaching, bartending, construction, and consulting. Currently she works with a domestic violence shelter and education agency. A quote from Morgan: “There are a few really important things in life, then there is everything else. Pay attention to the few.”