She rarely speaks, usually nodding her head and smiling. This morning she talked to me, loading my weekly groceries into the trunk. Her English is poor, but comprehensible. She looked troubled.
She has been working as a bagger at my local supermarket for 10 years. She is a single mother, mid-thirties. Her schedule has been cut to two days a week. Best I could tell, a cost savings measure. She cannot survive on her minimum wage job only two days a week. She cannot feed her child and herself on that.
Her take home pay is less than what I spend on one week’s groceries.
We stood at my car and she talked. I listened. I asked questions. I offered suggestions; none will work given where she lives and the cost of her childcare. She said thank you and went back inside. I can’t stop thinking about her.
Reach Out with a Voice or a Hand
I don’t know why she chose to speak today except perhaps that she couldn’t hold it in, that I am a kind face she has seen for years – or a tired one. My face, tired like her own.
Perhaps the desperation is too great. The need for a small miracle, for its possibility if she dares to reach out.
And I understand.
I reach out daily, and you help. I wish to help someone else, in turn.
My World, Today
The results of my morning at the supermarket:
- The price of packaged deli meats I buy each week went up a full dollar, from $4.00 to $5.00. That is a 20% increase, in the past six days.
- The price of a number of items I routinely purchase is up – 10% or more – and I am an attentive and disciplined shopper when it comes to buying food on a budget.
- My overall total: roughly 10% more on my food bill.
I will have to make up for that somewhere. I don’t know where, or how. This isn’t the only item that is up; gas, obviously. Utilities, in general. Medical insurance, once again.
As for reports that the economy is improving, all I can note is the very real drama in one individual’s life for whom that isn’t the case. The bagger who needed to talk. My own little world in which it seems I cannot get ahead, no matter what I do.
Who am I kidding? It’s a matter of slowing the pace of falling behind. Living with the stress of debt and the hope of reducing it. Someday.
My Body, Myself
Going through the check-out line, the cashier asked if I was alright. He is a middle-aged man and he has known me for years as do most of the other baggers. When there is a new teenager working the line he explains to “go light” because of my arms and back. The car accident, a few years back.
Today, for whatever reason, I’m in more pain than usual. I must have winced reaching into the cart.
“Can’t the doctors help?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Been there, done that. Without more time and money, for now, no.”
I smiled and paid and said thank you. We must not talk about our pain. We must not talk about our troubles. And this morning I own my perspective and I am grateful, immeasurably grateful – for the project I have, for Motrin by my bed, for a heating pad to help me through the day.
For healthy children with food enough to eat.
My World, Our World
Yesterday I was struck by the increasing number of reports concerning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan, and of course, the unsung heroes who may be sacrificing their lives to continue working inside the plant.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone isn’t following this piece of global news, as if the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami were not enough. And if you aren’t reading, you should.
I am stilled by bravery of this magnitude. I am stilled by the possibilities of disaster of this magnitude.
History, and Not
I remember when the incident at Three Mile Island occurred – ironically, around the time of the release of The China Syndrome – a movie that deals with a nuclear incident. Likewise, I remember Chernobyl. And while I was nowhere near these locations at the time, and many of us are sitting far away from the site of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the immediacy of this looming disaster, we’d be crazy not to be sobered and silenced by it.
Even as some sources try to reassure us here in the U.S., shouldn’t we revisit our politics, our choices, our assumptions about our way of life?
From Where We Sit
It is easy to be complacent, to sit in our theoretically secure homes and jobs, our reasonably healthy bodies, our presumably stable relationships – and believe that the suffering of the world at large cannot and will not touch us in personal ways.
The “it can’t happen to me” syndrome.
It can. It will. It does.