Thursday, January 27, 2011

discovering wealth in poverty

We saved over $60 at the grocery store yesterday. That's a big "wahooo!" But we still spent too much. Having put together the grocery list I couldn't imagine what was on it that nudged the bill so high. I have to accept some of the blame for this--Ken went to the store without me. Other than bananas and half and half, which somehow didn't make the list, he didn't do any impulse buying. What he DID do was get two. You know, the buy one, get one? You don't have to get the second one to get the savings. For every BOGO I unpacked two items from the bags.

I have decided that I will take some of those items back to the store today. It may not seem like such a big deal. After all, we WILL use those second items in due time. But right now, the half price of those discretionary purchases serve us better in the bank.

Thinking about saving pennies this morning while making coffee, I was reminded of an earlier moment in my life when money was tight. I was barely out of college. I lived in Indiana and was headed to my Mom's in New York for Christmas. With my five-month old Sheltie keeping me company in the passenger seat, I was halfway across Pennsylvania when it suddenly hit me. Having bought dog food for the visit home, I didn't have enough cash to pay the toll to get across the George Washington Bridge.

A few miles further along my journey I spotted a sign for the state highway patrol station at an upcoming exit, and I made a decision. I got off at the exit and headed to the station. I went inside, where the woman who sat nearest the door looked up and asked if she could help me. I pleaded my case, and asked if she would consider cashing a small check for me. She shook her head, noting that they weren't equipped to cash checks there at the station. I must have looked crushed, because the look on her face indicated that she was trying very hard to find a way to help me out. Then the frown leveled and she offered, "I guess I could take some cash out of the coffee fund..."  And so she did. With the $7 cash with which I was now richer, I continued east to New York and made my way across the GWB into the city.

I headed to Greenwich Village to pick up my grandmother, and then we made a brief stop at Tudor City where she dropped off a gift for her friend, Charles. She returned to the car carrying the same, small bag in which she had toted the gift for Charles. As she got back into the car I inquired, "was he not at home?" and she placed the bag in my hands before closing the car door.

"This is for you!" she proclaimed. "They're cookies from Charles. He has more than he can possibly eat, and he wanted you to have some. It's what he calls the "share the wealth" plan."

I felt rich. On this day the kindness of a stranger and the generosity of a man I barely knew eased my burden and showered me with abundance. I have not forgotten either (as is obvious by this post). I no longer remember the name of the woman at the police station, though I did, at the time, send her a Christmas card with my thanks expressed. From that encounter I learned something about creative problem-solving and going the extra distance to help a person in need.

To this day I continue to practice Charles' "share the wealth" plan. When I have excess, and even when I don't, I try to share with others something of my abundance. I may be cash-poor, but I am surrounded by riches of other kinds, and my life is blessed.

Blessed are the poor of all kinds, for they shall know the mercy of God.


Jayne said...

Just beautiful...

The Bug said...

I love this story! I would NOT have been so creative - even if I had thought of it I wouldn't have had the nerve. I wonder how I would have solved the problem instead?

Nancy, Near Philadelphia said...

Thanks for this fine post.

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