The $10 Wake-up Call

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Think you have it bad? You're probably not going door to door asking to do yard work because you've lost your job.

Recently a guy knocked at the Phoenix home where my daughter and son-in-law live. He said he’d just lost his job and would be willing to do some work in their yard for $10.

Scam, right?

Wrong. He did the work. Before getting paid for it. And no doubt he was surprised by what happened next.

“We gave him $20 because, uh, we prefer not to go to hell” is the way my daughter described it.

Apparently some of their immediate neighbors have no fear of everlasting immolation, though, because they took the guy up on his $10 offer. Which brings me to the point of this mercifully short screed:

Think you’ve got it bad? You probably don’t.

I was having a bad day on the afternoon I read Abby’s words on Facebook. That evening? Still not great. But at least I’m not going from door to door in about-to-be-furnacey Phoenix, offering to pull weeds for what probably amounts to less than minimum wage per yard.

The need to hang in there

Or maybe you really do have it bad. Maybe you’re sitting on your last dollar watching past-due bills slip through the mail slot in your front door. If so, hang in there. Things may yet change in ways you literally could not imagine.

It wasn’t that long ago that Abby was surviving, sort of, on food stamps and something called General Assistance-Unemployable — a $400 monthly check given by the state of Washington to people who can’t work because of “temporary incapacities.” Her rent was $525 a month.

Eventually her disability case was approved — sort of a bad news/worse news situation. Congratulations! You no longer have to struggle on GA-U because … you’re disabled. It was enough to survive on and she was grateful not to be homeless, but she couldn’t shake a sense of despair. Would she ever find a job? Was she facing decades and decades on the dole?

Fast-forward five years: She not only found a job, she found the perfect boss. He lets her build her work schedule around her health issues. He gave her extra time off after her miscarriages. He has given her regular raises and even Christmas bonuses. (I don’t know another person who has gotten bonuses in the last few years.)

Right now her husband isn’t working due to his own health issues and they’ve struggled with medical debt. After a careless driver totaled their car and the insurance settlement wasn’t enough to pay for a replacement vehicle, they had to partially finance a used car (which is having a midlife crisis).

I wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d said “No thanks” when the guy knocked. Instead, they not only gave him some work but paid him more than he had asked. Their bank account isn’t big, but their hearts are huge.

And my problems are small. Maybe yours are too.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to keep improving our lives. One way to do that, however, is to remember any advantages we already have. Like, say, a job that pays more than $10 at a time.

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Stacy Johnson

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