I grew up in an upper middle class family. We had nice things, country club membership, new cars, nice clothes, etc. Etc. It was great.
I have also experienced need. When my husband and were first married, we really struggled. Like living rent free and still not making enough to pay the utilities. Buying whole milk and adding water so I would have two gallons instead of one. Hawking my wedding ring to make a payment. Qualifying for free lunch at the kid’s school. Not eating lunch so the kids would have food. Etc. Etc. It wasn’t great.
The struggles sucked, but we made it through and, most importantly, we learned. I have set a family budget that we follow. Some months it is really tight, but we have learned to rely on God. When we were knocking on poverty’s door, He always carried us over the hump. The minor blips we experience now are hiccups in our life. We are like most of America today- pay check to pay check, but faking it like we have a clue.
We could experience catastrophic failure at any moment, but we choose to walk victorious.
One of the things that I remember from the poor days that still makes me think, is the lack of connectedness I felt with other people. After a PTA meeting, some of the moms would go for coffee or a quick bite before school would get out and invite me. How could I justify spending $8 on an overpriced coffee and calorie laden bagel when I wasn’t sure we would have enough for the electric bill that month? How could I let on that I was in such an embarrassing financial state? I was humiliated in my have-not state of being. But more than financial need, I had a soul need that others couldn’t see and I was too ashamed to admit.
(Some of you may wonder why I didn’t get a job. Well, day care for four children would have completely negated any salary I would have brought home. It just seemed pointless.)
I’m not sharing this to garner sympathy, just to let you know that there may be some people hiding in your circle that need more than you realize. When my neighbor lost his job, his family ate a lot of oatmeal until things got better. When I learned of this from his young son, we had a dinner guest as many nights as his mom would let him come. I mentioned to his mom that I knew her family predicament, but she assured me that it wasn’t as bad as all that. Appearances must be maintained, even in the tough times.
The need of the lowest income bracket is usually so apparent that we don’t always notice the need that is next to us. The mom that is overwhelmed and afraid to reach out. The family that is eating oatmeal every night because things are so tight. The PTA mom who is hoping to her husband has a change of heart and comes back. Every day people who function in a seemingly normal way, but are dying on the inside. Too afraid to be real. Too afraid to reach out. Too afraid to reveal what they really, truly need.
I have often wondered how I can help those who fall into this category of need. Those in my community that have a soul need so deep it hurts, but are too embarrassed to admit it. Opening my heart and my home to them is a start.
How hard would it be to ask a younger mom, overwhelmed with the wonderful task of being a mom to come over for coffee? No expensive baristas or calorie laden muffins. Just two friends connecting over a steaming mug of java. Instead of proposing an expensive girl’s night out that a cash-strapped friend can’t afford but really needs, a small gathering of wine, women, and more wine. Small things that can mean all the world to the person who feels completely alone in their turmoil. Why are we so sure that a conversation over a venti latte with extra cream is better than openness over a glass of sweet tea served in an old jelly jar. Are we so worried about the breakfast dishes left in the sink that we miss the opportunity to serve the spiritually impoverished in our neighborhood? Are we so consumed in our busy lives that hospitality is lost in favor of convenience?
Why not welcome our friends with their messy problems into our messy homes to discuss our messy lives? Everyone wants to experience acceptance, not be excluded by something as meaningless as money.
Times are tight. Connecting over coffee doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.