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Next in Line at the Food Stamp Window
Food Stamps. Medicaid. Unemployment. These were words I never imagined would be associated with having a college degree. And a Master’s Degree top of that. While growing up, we’re taught to pay attention in school so that you can graduate, go to college, and be successful.
“You wouldn’t want to be one of those people without a job now, would you?” I can hear the words clearly from my parents, teachers, counselors, and pastors. These are the people that guide us into our sticky transition years of figuring out who we want to be and how we will make a living.
But what happens when you do exactly what you’re supposed to do, and things still don’t turn out right? Nobody would have been able to foresee that I would be 28 years old with a Master’s, several certificates to my name, four children, and no job.
Every year for the last five years, I have been unemployed for several months at a time. You see, I am a teacher. I teach children skills so they can survive. But I’m barely scratching by myself.
Every year I have to find a new job. The form letter I get each May tells me there is simply not enough money to keep me as a teacher, and they are sorry to have to let me go. The next few months are full of humbling moments, standing in line for Food Stamps, applying for government insurance, and using every waking moment filling out applications.
I fill out applications for jobs for which I am either way too qualified, or not quite qualified enough. My body, mind, and heart are so consumed with finding employment that I have little left to give my children and husband.
I often ask God why this is happening to me. Then the harsh reality hits, and I realize that I am not in this battle alone. According to the jobs report and unemployment statistics, millions of others share in this situation. I understand that I am not the only person searching for a job, but still my heart sinks at the thought of another rejection letter. The pile is high, and they all seem to say the same thing: I’m a wonderful candidate, but someone else was chosen who was a “better fit.”
Recently, I applied for a job that had more than 600 applications. I wonder what the right fit is for that one?
In the few jobs I have been able to secure over the last five years, I was the “one,” sometimes beating out hundreds of other applicants.
Still, the odds are daunting, frustrating.
My faith doesn’t immunize me against hardship. Oftentimes I wonder if it invites hardship. I wonder if Christians endure more challenging lives than the rest of the population. For me, it feels that way.
My prayers are kept positive by the exhortation not to be anxious about the day to day. What to eat, drink, or wear are for God to worry about, and I should be like lilies and the birds. They trust and so should I. The simplicity in knowing that my basic needs are covered is enough for me to peer my little head over that massive mountain and up to the sky.
Still I fret. And I wonder, does my worry negate the promise?
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