The air was cool on my face as I stepped outside and locked the door behind myself. I took a deep breath and zipped my jacket up to the neck. My twenty-minute walk might be fifteen tonight.
Dusk had already seized the edges of the horizon and dimmed the bright blue of the sky. By the time I finished walking, full darkness would have descended, street lights would be illuminating my steps, and there would be complete silence. There would be no sounds of agitated parents, returning from a long day, lugging groceries inside all the while yelling at their sulky teenager to come help and then take out the garbage, and no TV so loud you could hear it through a partially open window. Such as apartment living.
I squinted, then smiled, as wind gusted through the row of apartment buildings. It was only mid October, and this was the second night during which the temperature was forecast to drop to the fifties. With luck, this could be a real winter, like the ones I had known growing up . Although my small hometown was less than a hundred miles north, the difference in latitude meant that as a child I wore sweaters for weeks on end, rather than a day here and a day there as I had done since moving to Tampa. As a child, I remember some freezes hard enough to make the grass crunch under your feet and the frost linger til mid morning in shaded and low-lying areas.
I shivered a little as the wind penetrated my worn-out thrift store sweatpants.
“Yes, it might be a real winter this year.”
Again, I thought of the Little House books, the leit motif of our lives. Being outside in the cold, all bundled up while Sharon was inside, safe and warm, I thought about Pa Ingalls trudging through the snow to return to his family. As I walked, my hands and feet grew colder while my back, as well as my mind, grew more relaxed.
“Why” I asked myself, “Why do some people have it so easy and others have it so hard? Why were some people born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouth and silk clothes on their back when Sharon and I had to struggle so. . . ”
I abruptly stopped my thoughts. I knew why we had to struggle so much financially. We were little different from other single-parent families except perhaps, for those at higher income levels. Being without child support payments, except for the first few years after the divorce, didn’t make us unique either, and neither did being in what I came to call functional poverty.
My income exceeded the official government guideline for receiving aid but our standard of living–by virtue of receiving no help from any source–was lower than that of families earning less and therefore receiving government aid.
I knew I thought about finances too much; it was hard not to worry. I frowned and shook my head.
“Help me, Father, please help me not to worry. I know You love children living in difficult circumstances just as much as you love little girls and boys living in affluence. I know You want them to have the same things children in wealthy families do, Father, like a nice home to grow up in and a happy daily life filled with all the little pleasures that delight a child’s heart. As Sharon walks, in all her precious innocence, through the weeks and months and years ahead that will end in adulthood, help me give her the life You want her to have.”
With all that said, I felt better and occupied myself with enjoying my walk, noting out of habit but with genuine pleasure, the sights and sounds of being outdoors, sensual treasures like the brief glimpse of the river, the long arms of the grandfather oak tree, the crunch of acorns under my feet, and the occasional comforting coo of a mourning dove. As I walked, I kept thinking about what children growing up in wealthy homes had that I wanted to give to Sharon. It was still hard to be grateful sometimes when our lives were ones of unceasing thrift and hard times.
One by one, I listed in my head the advantages having plenty of money could provide, assuming priorities were right. Bit by bit, thought by thought, I began forming a plan.
As I predicted, it was, indeed, dark as I rounded the farthest apartment building and headed home. Once again, I shook my head and smiled. God had already helped me implement step one of my grand plan to give Sharon the same advantages children in wealthier families enjoyed—no fear of being provided for—when He helped me stop complaining. Trusting God with my most treasured earthly possession – my Sharon – was hard but I was getting better as I saw her respond to my efforts to respond to God.