Friday, September 12, 2014

Six Dollars

There is a story in the bible about God's people spending years wandering in the desert in shoes that never wore out.

How lucky for those moms? I mean for real! Shoe shopping with children? Stressful. And expensive. Oh, how I would love a miracle of everlasting shoes! Especially in the season we find ourselves in. I've been known to glue/sew/tack shoes back together. But truth be told I've only done that for myself. When it comes to my kids, well, don't all moms buy what their kids need before they make a single purchase for themselves?

And that's how it is that I found myself at the store recently; buying shoes for my daughter.  And that purchase turned into a bit of a miracle of it's own variety.

Check it out:

We've got one store in town. And two weeks ago I found this adorable navy stripe blouse on clearance. I snatched it up, brought it home only to discover it was too small. I asked hubby, when he was out, if he'd exchange it for me - he couldn't. I stuck it in my purse to remember to do it myself - and didn't - but one afternoon, as I had just returned home from a long day at work my oldest daughter announced she was running out to pick up a pair of tennis shoes.

"Hey", I said while massaging my own feet, "would you exchange a shirt for me?"

"Ummm," she squirmed, "no. Just come with me!"

I didn't want to.
I'd been working all day.
I have 4 other children I felt responsible to be at home for.
Dinner needed to be made.
I had a dozen excuses but sensing if I wanted my shirt exchanged I was gonna hafta get up off the couch and get it done. Plus, my daughter didn't actually ask me to buy her the shoes she was seeking for an upcoming, special event she was in. As she has her own job she tends to buy whatever she needs for herself. It seemed to me I could pick up the tab on this one and buy the shoes for her.

But shopping is not 'my thing' and it was my goal to get in, get what we need and get out.

Upon entering the store I immediately located the correct shirt size to exchange and together my daughter and I headed to the help-yourself-find-your-own shoe aisle. The plan; get her size and get out.

But it was not to be.

To say we looked high and low for something that would work for her is a gross understatement.  I marched up and down every row looking for something, anything that she could use. Mis-marked shoes, stored boxes to the ceiling, wrong size aisle, right size aisle ... surely there was a pair of shoes for her.
"What about these?" Too big.
"These?" Too small.
"Or how about these?"
"Those are beige, mom!"

Despite my nature to grow annoyed and frustrated, I took this moment in as a personal challenge. I wasn't leaving without a pair of white shoes. I found one pair that were half a size too small but despite feeling snug she felt like they would work.

I tucked her shoes and my shirt, under my arm, and headed to the service counter hoping for a quick exchange.

Of course, there was a line.

As we waited, I did some mental math knowing that even a $15 pair of sneakers wasn't in this month's budget. But what are ya gonna do? Your kid needs shoes.

Growing impatient, I noticed the line hadn't moved and began to eaves drop on the hold up. A woman stood in front of me, at the only open register and it appeared she was trying to exchange some shoes for her daughter. And she was $6.00 short.

Her little girl said, "Don't use my money momma. You already borrowed all of mine."
"I won't" her mother said.
"Why don't you just go home and get money, Mom?"
"There is no money at home, honey."
"Well, write a check"
"I can't. It would bounce."
"What's bounce?"

"I'm sorry, Mam but if your card is denied there is nothing I can do"

Have I mentioned I've worked behind the customer service desk?
This very one?
Because I've already mentioned I know what it's like to be the mom in this scenario.
So what I'm saying is; in an instant I knew how both women were feeling. The cashier was trying to make the customer happy. The customer was trying to find a way to make a purchase.

I know these feelings.
I know.

While the employee called her manager looking for a solution to the situation it was escalating quickly. With no purchasing power the customer was beginning to make a scene.

I checked my wallet.
I had $3.00. I whispered to my daughter, "Do you have $3.00?"
"No" she said.

I sighed.
The clerk hung up the phone and stated again that there was nothing she could do. And that's when the customer began to rant. Swear words, f-bombs, red faced. Blaming the store, the clerk and the school system for requiring so many supplies. Anybody and everybody was to blame and she was getting louder by the second.

I watched as her daughter silently slunk away from the scene.

About this time an employee opened up a second register to assist me. Moving forward and doing my best to pretend that a full blown temper tantrum wasn't happening two feet away from me, (because that's why we do when we're uncomfortable - we pretend nothing is wrong).  I placed my items on the counter.

The clerk explained she would return my shirt and I could apply the difference to my new purchase. She scanned my receipt, scanned the price tag and we both ignored the customer in frantic meltdown.

My heart was beating widely in my chest as I watched $6.00 keep a child from a pair of shoes. $6.00 was stealing the mother's peace. $6.00 was such a small number. And yet, is was a lot.

I'll admit rather than being put off by the woman's behavior I ached for her. Quite frankly, I've felt that desperate. I've worried my card might be rejected. I've panicked I'd have to leave the store without my purchases and have to explain to my kids why I haven't provided what they needed. I know these feelings.

"Mam? Here's your change." I turned my attention back to my own transaction, I held out my hand for my change and looked down in disbelief. There in my hand lay $6.36. The change for my shirt was six dollars and thirty-six cents!!!

People, I didn't even think about it. I reached over the partition, set my $6.00 down between the clerk and the mother and I swear the world paused. Everything went silent. My daughter froze. The clerk looked at the money. The mother's mouth fell open. I .... shrugged.

"You don't have to do that" the clerk said.
Again, I shrugged.
"You don't have to", the woman said.
"It's meant to be," I explained "she (pointing to my clerk) just gave me $6.00 for my exchange. It's okay!"

And you know what the woman did?

Can you guess?

A moment ago she was cursing, flailing her arms, threatening the clerk and making a scene. Can you believe that all of that stopped instantly and she broke down and cried?

Sobbed really.

Her daughter, who had suddenly reappeared, looked up at her with worried eyes. "What's wrong mamma?"

I leaned in to address the woman one more time, "Listen, I came here today to buy my daughter shoes too. I know tough times myself. This? This is okay. Be blessed. Dry your eyes and enjoy the rest of your day. You're not alone. And it's going to be okay."

She couldn't speak. I nudged her with my elbow, winked and turned back to my register.
I still had a blouse to replace and a pair of sneakers to get for my kid.
I had the clerk ring both up together and I pulled out my debit card pretty sure that today it would go through.
I handed the bag to my kid and we left the store, walking out in silence.
The moment was heavy with emotion.

Later, at home that night I retold the story of my experience at the dinner table to the rest of my Tribe.   That's why I love dinners together, the breaking of bread and telling of stories is one of my favorite things to do... but as I did, my youngest said, "I wonder why the mom was so mean if she was really just sad"
"Why do you think she was sad?" I asked her.
"Maybe because she couldn't get what she needed" she perceptually responded.
"Yes," I said, "you are right. It's very sad when we can't get the things we need. But you know what I think?"
"I think that sometimes people hide their sadness with meanness. That's why you should be kind. A lot of people are really sad. If you treat them with kindness they might feel less sad."

Wouldn't that be the best miracle? If each of us passed on so many acts of kindness that sadness was practically eliminated?

And what if we can? What if helping others isn't always hard? What if $6.00 is enough? In hindsight, I thank goodness I never got around to returning my shirt any earlier. I thank goodness my daughter invited me to go shopping with her. I thank God I was in line at that counter at that precise moment.

Which makes me wonder about miracles. Maybe miracles aren't always limited to bible stories. Maybe miracles still happen today. Maybe miracles aren't only parting seas, turning water to wine and enduring shoes. I mean sure, those are cool miracles but what do you call the other moments?  These other $6.00 moments if not a miracle?

If my family had shoes that never wore out miracle it would be so freaking awesome. But instead, I suspect I witnessed a different, but equally potent, miracle. I was happy to share my $6.00. And because of that it seems to me that I, and the other mother, witnessed a modern day shoe miracle of our own.

This is a part of a Finance Friday series on my blog chronically our family's experience of living on less. Check out the why and how here. And as always ... in a world where there are more blogs than time to read them, I sincerely appreciate your visiting mine today.


p.s. What about you? Have you struggled buying your children what the need (not want!) during tough economic times? How have you coped? Or have you been the one to be a blessing? Would love to hear your stories .... feel free to comment below or share this entry with a friend!

1 comment:

  1. My mom and niece came into town Thursday and we were going to have a good dinner when all the kids got home from school, but we were hungry, "now." We stopped at Costco for the $1.50 1/4lb hot dog & soda. The elderly woman in front of us was having trouble pulling out the right amount of money and was upset to find out pizza was more and did not come with a soda. She asked for a water cup and continued to dig for change. I watched for what seems like hours before I realized I could fix this. I stepped up to the counter and handed the cashier $3 and said "Please give her a soda too" before turning to the woman and telling her lunch was on me, despite her protests and her saying "I can't believe this is happening to me today." I handed her a little card. One said says "Heartbomb" and the other says "Just a little something to let you know God loves you."

    I'm just glad I got out of my own head long enough to realize she needed help. I could have talked to my mom and my niece and never even taken note. I pray that God gives me opportunities to make an impact with others and that I can be others-focused enough to take them.


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