She was a thin little thing in a man's t-shirt two sizes too big. The crumpled dollar and some change were in her hand as she set her loaf of white bread on the belt. It was just one thing, so the cashier didn't notice and rang it up with my groceries. The little teenager sprang to action and with both hands put her hands on the bread as if to indicate it was hers – with fear in her eyes, she looked at me as if I was going to take her bread.
The cashier quickly apologized and started removing the bread from my ticket.
“No, I said, I'm happy to buy her bread for her. Let me do it.”
I took out another dollar and change as she looked at the few coins in her hands that probably weren't enough. Then, she looked at me and thanked me as if I'd just bought her a diamond ring.
With tears in my eyes and tears in hers, I said, “Just know that God loves you,” and she was gone.
I was left behind ashamed. Ashamed because I've been having a pity party for three days because of having to cancel a trip that I didn't have the money to go on. Ashamed because I had the money to buy more than bread for my family and yet, I was upset because of the unexpected auto repair bills, unexpected medical bills that the insurance company refused to pay, and unexpected money owed to the school for different events for my children. We didn't have enough money… or so I thought.
We have money, we're just working to manage it.
“You either manage money or the lack of it manages you,”
says Dave Ramsey, author of Financial Peace University, the program we're going through at our church that is changing our spending habits and improving our marriage – although right now, we jokingly call it “Financial Pain University.”
But there are perspectives here. Two to be exact.
1. Don't say “I don't have money” when you really do.
I'm just choosing where to spend it and I can't do everything I want. Sometimes I have to say no so my money can go where it is most needed. Credit card debt is a form of modern slavery and ours is going to be gone soon.
As I left the grocery store, thanking God for the opportunity to do that small thing and to see her face, I felt that He clearly told me:
2. I give you money so you can help people, not spend it on your own pleasures.
Yes. The joy in that moment was unbuyable, unexpected, and amazing – not because I'm so good, because I'm not. It was just bread. The joy was there because the good Lord let me see that woman's face and know that I was in the right place at the right time to help her. If I'd been at home still having my pity party like I had for the last two nights in a row, I might not have seen her.
As you ponder how tough your life is. As you bemoan the sacrifices you are making for your family, your children, or your students, ponder perspective.
As I came home from this and my problems seemed dim, they got a lot dimmer as I saw the footage 9/11 on the airwaves last night. I heard the Mom call her son on the last plane to go down in Pennsylvania,
“Son, they've got the plane and they're going to hurt people, you need to overpower them. Do what you can do, I love you. Bye Bye.”
Now, that is a problem. That is tragedy. That is a brave Mom doing the right thing that I cannot fathom. My problems pale in comparison.
Get Perspective and Get Busy
So, I write to you today in the hopes that you too will gain perspective for both your money situation and your problems. You are dear, wonderful teachers and I've known very few rich ones. But I have known those who managed their money so well that they could help others in many ways. I hope that you'll join me in a move to managing our money so the lack of it doesn't manage us.
You have somebody right now in front of you that you can help. I promise you do. It won't cost much, but look for them. Help them and you might just help yourself make it through the struggles you face.
Remember your noble calling, teacher. Have a great day.
Photo Credit: BigStock. Not for reuse without licensing directly from Bigstock.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Tips for minimizing teacher stress
- Discover 10 stress-busting secrets for healthy teachers. What simple routines will help you handle the stress?
- Simple advice for coping with stress at work.
- Learn tips to help you deal with difficult colleagues and students (even those who "hate" you -- yes it is possible!)