Monday, February 3, 2014

What we deserve

On Thursday, January 30, I am riding my seventh snow day in a row, and I am angry.

I could enjoy it—read, write, bake—but instead, I calculate the amount of income I’ve lost over the last two weeks and become sullen. “Why can’t North Carolina take a chill pill about the snow,” I say to my husband. Two inches of snow on Tuesday meant the rest of the week off. When I say it out loud it seems a silly thing to be angry about. But I’m in a self-righteous mood.

I don’t deserve this! I think. What I mean is, I don’t deserve to be almost twenty-eight and never have had a full time job where I would get a consistent income despite snow days. I don’t deserve to have an employer that won’t allow me to work more than 22 hours in a given week even if there is work to be done. I don’t deserve to have a paycheck that can be cut in half by a couple crazy weeks of weather.

“I don’t deserve this!” I say out loud. I did so well in school, I worked so hard and I got so many A’s. Then I put in some years of service with nonprofits, and I worked hard there and my bosses liked me. Shouldn’t I have obtained a “real job” by now?!

The truth is I have only looked for this type of job twice. Once, I had three interviews in a week and didn’t get any of the jobs. So I took a part-time job. The other time was when I first moved to Cherokee, where I’m not the only one who has had trouble getting work. Maybe I “deserve” to have a full-time job by now, but then so do the fifty-year-old men who’ve gotten laid off from companies where they worked for twenty years. So do a good chunk of the ten million unemployed people in America. So do the recent college grads who are working as waiters and babysitters.

Because I’m off again today, I can’t say no when my neighbor knocks on my door to ask for a ride. He needs to go borrow money from a friend. “You’re not the only one who lost some days of work this week,” he says as we ride across town. Three days of his construction job were cancelled due to the weather. He is hard up for cash and trying to figure out how to make it as a single dad—he lost his young wife four months ago, to a sudden illness just weeks after she had given birth to their first daughter. They had both been in trouble with the law but had begun to turn things around, had “gotten saved” and sobered up and started associating with a better crowd, especially once they knew there was a baby on the way.  Now he is trying to hold on to that traction while he pieces together the disappointments and curve balls that keep coming. Does he deserve that?

We don’t always get what we deserve. Sometimes it is hard to understand why or how. I could write a whole separate lament on that topic.

But that is not the way my thoughts are flowing today. I know we don’t get what we deserve, but maybe sometimes it is better this way. Maybe this opens the possibility that sometimes, we get more. I don’t think I deserved a free Toyota Camry, for example, but when my grandfather died no one else wanted it. I doubt I deserved a husband who is far more patient and good-looking and fun to be around than I will ever be. Or a friend who is still my friend despite so many hurtful things I’ve done. Or a river view and a shining sun this afternoon and a box full of letters and photos from people who love me all over the country. Once I start playing this game, it is hard to stop. I know I don’t deserve Jesus—who lived a life that was holy and justice-oriented and ethically brilliant and accepting of the marginalized and all about ending down barriers and divisions and self-sacrificial in the freest way—who is the embodiment of God’s unconditional love for all of us.

I’ll take a couple snow days in exchange for that.

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