I was originally going to title this post ‘Enough’, but then I thought about it. Enough is when you are just surviving. Enough is getting by, but scraping the bottom sometimes. I may be closer to that than I think, but truthfully I have plenty. Plenty is having 3 kinds of salt for my cooking, five if you include the seasoning salts. Plenty is knowing that if a twelve foot blizzard snowed us in tonight, I could live off the food in my pantry and freezer for several weeks. We’d eat a lot of beans, but we wouldn’t go hungry. (And they’d be well seasoned.)
Plenty is cringing at the gas station, but still having money to fill the tank. Plenty is having two cars to fill.
Plenty is having the luxury to decide that I want to turn the heat down to 66 during the day to try to conserve energy, instead of keeping it set at 60 because I can’t afford to have it any warmer.
Plenty is being able to walk into a thrift store and be picky about the clothes that I buy.
Several weeks ago our church served supper at the local soup kitchen. I forget the exact number of people served, it was over 400, nearly 70 of them children. People who struggle just to try to reach ‘enough’. People who would only eat that one meal that day.
Overwhelmingly, they were grateful. Most said thank you. And one lady drug me out of my role of benevolent giver and down to the level of fellow human. The standard question we asked was if they wanted one sandwich or two. Almost everyone chose two, but still, we had been told to ask. And this lady took me to task for it. “Of course I want two. I haven’t eaten all day. They should train you people better, tell you who you’re serving. We don’t have money for food. $300 income, $400 rent, you do the math.” And she scowled her way on down the line.
After getting over the initial shock of her tirade, I remembered. I remembered the year I left school, a cloud of depression making the completion of my education degree seem intolerable, just two and a half months shy of my degree. And the jobs didn’t come. Overqualified, overqualified, overqualified, not enough experience, overqualified, not enough experience. For two and a half months I searched. Going home wasn’t an option, my parents had just solved my dad’s own jobless situation by going into missions; home was sold.
Oh yes, I can do the math. How many times was I down to my last dime? Everything I had went towards rent. One friend found out I wasn’t buying groceries, later that week someone dropped off two bags full from someone who wished to remain secret. Another friend took me to the store himself and paid for the groceries. My small group took up a collection that got me through just a little bit longer. The school discovered an accounting error that landed me a refund just when the rent was due. Finally, a part-time job at the bookstore in the mall for the Christmas season. Scraping through to my first paycheck, not enough money in my account to put gas in the car, praying it would go just a little bit longer. Running out of gas in the mall parking lot on the day I finally got my paycheck.
Finally, several months later, an office job. Not enough for extras. Enough for an attic apartment shared with a string of off-beat roommates. Enough for food on the table. Enough for gas in the car.
I won’t bore you with all the times I feared that ‘enough’ wouldn’t stretch, only to have God provide in some unexpected way. But in the midst of my plenty, I have been reminded that it is only by God’s grace that I am here instead of struggling as so many families are struggling. I am not the benevolent giver, I am simply someone who has been blessed and is blessed to give back out of gratitude. I give with the hope that enough small gifts will carry another family through the period of barely enough and into their own time of plenty.
So this Thanksgiving, as I prepare to head to the warmth of the in-law’s house, where we will sit down to a dinner that will challenge my desire to not stuff myself with more than I need, I give thanks for plenty. I give thanks for the road that God has taken me on that has taught me to truly appreciate it, and I give thanks for one woman who reminded me of how very much I have to give thanks for.