In 2008 I was fired from my first out-of-college job. She short version is that it was a family owned/run business and I wasn’t family. This was at the beginning of September.
In case you don’t remember, September is sort of when several banks declared bankruptcy. And I was asking for unemployment with almost 1/2 a million other people. I never went to the unemployment office and spent less than 3 hours there. I took a book and waited to wait.
I had a little savings, but I found out in October that I had been denied. My ex-boss had claimed he fired me with cause. Apparently, I was supposed to magically “know” he wasn’t happy with… my existing? Anywho, the appeals process got started but my money was running low and I didn’t have the rent beyond Nov. And job hunting… well, it wasn’t going well.
I had an interview with a large TV company for an internship. Paid, no benefits but it would be an income. I was working with a staffing agent and when he called to tell me I didn’t get it, he informed me the person who got it had eight years as an office manager. To my one year as an “administrative assistant.” I was devastated. I knew I had to make some really hard choices.
Taking out the amount for rent in a few days, I had about $10 left. I had to come up with food for the next few weeks with $10. So I bought rice and beans (literally). Peanut butter & bread. I bought a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. I bought a gallon of milk.
I get to the cashier and the milk pushing me to $12. I had been worried about it. I asked the cashier to put it back, I wouldn’t be able to have milk for my cereal. A voice behind me stopped me. Someone passed three dollars to the cashier. A woman in line behind me passed over three dollars so I could have milk. I think she said, “Put that milk back on.” but I don’t really remember.
I have no idea what that woman thought was going on in my life. I don’t know if I thanked her. I was shocked and grateful. I know by the time I was opening my car door I was in tears. I know I sobbed the whole way to my apartment. That symbol of self-sufficiency that I was going to have to leave.
A gallon of milk reminded me that I wasn’t self-sufficient. I didn’t get there alone. Everywhere I go in life, I have had help from my community: my friends, my family, my church. And so I should look around and see my community. Not just the people I talk to, but the bigger community around me.
A random woman once bought me milk. She didn’t know me. We never spoke again. I was in her community that day and she cared for me.
Now, I seek to care for my community in turn.