I’ve been in between pay checks since May. That’s a long time to be in between paychecks. This seems to be one of the other things that isn’t really clear about divorce — you have to learn to live on your own… financially. Everything was working out well until the last week (that’s usually the case, right?). I found myself down to the bare essentials. Making sure I had pancakes for breakfast and chips for the lunch boxes, oh… and of course chocolate milk. I remembered a money jar I had in my closet and decided I would cash it in — this would be the financial bridge I needed for the last remaining days of my own personal economic crunch.
I cashed in the jar and was amazed that it held $79.98 — amazed! My semi-stressed mood soared like I had just opened the door to the “Prize Patrol”. I clutched my winnings tight to my chest and headed straight for the gas station. My oversized-4-wheel-drive-gas-guzzling car had been screaming for a small drink of petrol all morning. I proudly walked inside and handed a crisp $20 bill to the attendant. Then proceeded to head back out to pump my gas (all the while thinking about how I would splurge at Starbucks after work on a venti sugar-free soy mocha hazelnut — nectar of the gods). On my walk back to my car, I also started thinking about buying something special for dinner that night — maybe I would splurge on shrimp and salmon at the store after work (the kids love shrimp and salmon night). There was a definite spring in my step at this point and I even took the time to smile coyly at a couple of customers as I approached my car. My phone rang and I couldn’t wait to answer it and tell whoever happened to be on the other end about that money jar and the $79.98. I listened intently as my friend told me about her morning and what was happening with work and where we were going to meet later on, then I mentioned that money jar and how bleak I was feeling before but now was walking on the sun with my winnings. I drove away and finished my conversation then cranked up the tunes as my new favorite song was playing — perfect timing. I was living in the zenest of moments. Then it dawned on me… I forgot to pump my gas.
I got so caught up in the feeling that I drove away without my $20 of gas… and for a brief second, my world stopped spinning. I turned the radio off, I screamed obscenities at the top of my lungs, I berated my careless behavior in such a financially poor time, and I thought about going back. I had just wasted $20 at a time when I couldn’t afford to be so careless.
But then, I let my imagination have its way with me — I imagined that another single mother of three in more dire need than me was steeling herself to pump her car full of gas and then speed away without paying. I imagined she had no other choice, I imagined she had no food at her house, I imagined her electricity was about to be cut off, I imagined her cell phone had long been disconnected. I imagined her kids needed shoes and clothes and food — I imagined they needed food. I imagined she cried herself to sleep trying to come up with a solution. I imagined she was out of solutions. I imagined she was young and scared and alone. I imagined she got caught, I imagined her children lonely and scared and crying for their mom. Then I imagined that she drove up to my pump to do her deed, and there… waiting for her, was $20 in gas. Just enough, I imagined, to get her to that job interview and secure her financial future for her and her kids. Just enough, I imagined, to give her hope for her future. Just enough, I imagined, to let her wake up to a new day. All because of my $20 that I forgot to pump.
So, I turned the radio back up and another amazing song was on — and I sang along at the top of my lungs and a tear fell down my face — a new day. I stopped at the next gas station and gave the attendant another crisp $20 bill from my money jar winnings. I laughed. I smiled at my forgetfulness. I decided I might do this again… on purpose this time. Leave $20 of gas for an unsuspecting single mother of three to find just in the nick of time to save her from herself.
I still had enough for my splurge at Starbucks and for the shrimp and salmon. All in all, a pretty good day. I’m filling my money jar back up… I wonder what stories it will have next month.
I developed a severe crush on this video and this project — I think you will too.