Earlier this week, I saw a lady crossing the road as I was driving home. On one arm she was balancing a bag full of leftovers from the restaurant kitchen where she works. On the other arm she was cradling a large jug of tea. In her hands she was holding a few small other odds and ends.
While the sun had already gone down, it was still nearly 90F outside. I stopped in the middle of the road, and from the comfort of my air conditioned car, I waved her across my path. As she neared the passenger side of my vehicle, I saw pure exhaustion in her eyes and beads of sweat running down her face.
I rolled down the window and, completely out of character for me, asked, “Would you like I ride?”
She shook her head as if to say, “No.” Then she paused. “Actually, a ride would be really nice.”
As she climbed into the car she said, “You’re a complete angel. Thanks for doing this.”
On our short 10 minute trip across town, I learned she walks 45 minutes one way to work every single day. A cook in a local restaurant, she then stands on her feet in a hot kitchen for eight hours before making the 45 minute walk home again.
“Your work ethic and dedication to showing up is something to truly be admired,” I told her. “So many people today don’t work, and you walk 90 minutes a day in the heat to have a job. That says a lot about you.”
“I have three kids to support. You do what you have to do to make it, right?” she responded.
As I pondered the lady I had met, the next day another person needing help crossed my path. He had lost his job, again. After two weeks of being unemployed, his electricity was going to be turned off again. He wasn’t sure why, but he just couldn’t ever seem to keep a job and the bills kept piling up.
As I pointed him in the direction of an organization that could possibly help, he told me, “They won’t help me anymore. Maybe you could write them a letter instead of this note with their address telling them to give me help again. Maybe they’ll listen to you.”
After telling him a letter from me wouldn’t supersede their policies, he gave me back the handwritten note with their address and phone number on it, sighed, and left.
As he walked across the parking lot to his car, I pondered the lady I had met the night before. She didn’t have a car payment, insurance payment, or gas bill. She didn’t even have a bike. Instead, she walked 45 minutes one way in the hot summer sun to a job that wasn’t her dream job, but it allowed her to support her children. She took leftovers home from the restaurant to help supplement their food. She was beyond grateful for a ride home from a complete stranger. Her work motto was simple … find a way, show up, and make ends meet. Or in her words, “You do what you have to do.”
As I pondered the paradox in the two situations, I thought about Proverbs 14:23 which reads, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
We can spend our lives talking about why we have misfortune and sharing our story hoping others will help support us again and again, or we can take accountability for our situations, roll up our sleeves, and put in the hard work it takes to make a profit.