February 22, 2014

When Tears Are Falling in a Department Store.

It was the difference of $11.36 that I would be cheated out of due to a new return policy. It was only $11.36. A fairly insignificant amount in the U.S., right? Except not for me, not today.

While trying to listen to the customer service workers explain the policy and while I tried to present my requests of how we could work toward a more fair solution, something loosened. Something that's been building for a long time. The dam broke and there I was tears falling fast, face red hot & splotchy, and me mumbling, "It's not you I'm frustrated with, we're just on a really tight budget." That was my anniversary gift to my husband, those new work shirts that didn't fit. He works hard and never asks for much. They weren't much, but that I gave them to him meant much. And now we can't get it all back. 

This crumbling defense got someone to listen. To me as a human. Not as a policy. And they decided to act justly, making an even exchange. A fair one. "Just go pick up the shirts to exchange & we'll fix this".

So as I dodged shopping aisle traffic to first splash cold water on my tearful face, I saw looks of pity and concern. One lady asked if I was okay. What could I say but "yeah", unless it would all break then and there. I didn't want to be more of a blubbering mess than I already was. I still had to find those shirts.

As I hunched over the bathroom sink, hopelessly trying to put my face back together, I tried to figure out how I got to this point. Of brokenness in financial struggle. And of course I know the facts of private college debt, graduating into the recession, ministry income, hospital bills and decisions I'd do over. But this time, I was trying to figure out how my heart got broken by the struggle. And then all this flooded:

The month we were trying to decide between our electricity bill and our student loan bill.

The winter we didn't know how we were going to clothe our daughter. A coat and boots too expensive.

The thrift store employee assuming you're trying to get one past them and then ending happily with "the store's profit all goes back into helping the community, isn't it wonderful?". But what if the store itself is the ministry for you? And it's not so wonderful to be treated smugly.

So today, today is about being real about how it's really {HARD} to struggle financially. The decisions you have to make. The worries that can take your breathe away. The response from others that is less than gentle at times. And the moments when $11.36 is worth crying over, because it's all just a little too much.

p.s. Tomorrow I'll share the other side of the struggle, for how it's also really {blessed}.

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  1. Oh friend, I know this struggle all too well. We've been married 25 years and I can honestly say that we've struggled for many of those years. Nearly 3 years of unemployed took our home, a car and we nearly claimed bankruptcy. We have a pile of debt that we are still catching up on. Hubby is working now (thankfully) but not making the kind of money he use to. I am thankful you had an opportunity to "let go", even though I am sure you would have preferred to be at home. Tears are so healing. I think I stuff my feelings, and it comes out in anger, at those I love the most. Praying for you!

    1. I'm so sorry for what you loss before. And thankful with you over your husband's employment. Thanks for sharing your understanding & yes it was really needed to have a good cry & let go a bit. Hope you identify too with my next post coming later today!