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It’s Personal

1. I pass the cleaning lady every morning as she is vacuuming the halls. She is on our floor cleaning the restrooms everyday at 9:30. I pass her at least three more times during the day when I’m on my way to meetings, on break, or going to lunch. I’ve seen her everyday for the past four years I’ve been working in this building, yet I have never seen her without that disposable dust mask covering her nose and mouth.

Perhaps she wears that mask because she is allergic to the dust her old vacuum diffuses along those long halls of carpet. Could be because her cleaning cart is full of chemicals that would choke a donkey. She might even be wearing the mask to hide a huge scar that she has allowed to define her self-worth. I don’t know her personal story. I don’t know her reasons. I cannot imagine it’s easy to wear that mask everyday, yet you can still see the wrinkles around her eyes when you know she is smiling at you from underneath that mask.

2. I have family entrenched in a vicious cycle of buying paltry items when “unallocated” money is in pocket, and then obligated to sell those same items at a much lower price when bills, new school clothes, and hungry stomachs arrive. The woman works at a local fast food chain for limited return, while her husband plays workforce hopscotch. Their children may never know anything outside of the Welfare state prolonged by a purchase to pawn shop lifestyle.

3. A close friend has a daughter who was rejected for state aide. She was taking classes at the local community college to finish her degree when her husband left her with two children and a mortgage payment. She dropped her classes and picked up two jobs in attempts to make ends meet. Her pride would not allow her to accept anyone’s help, but it became too much. She applied for state assistance hoping that along with her two jobs, she would have enough to keep her home and still provide for her two children. She was rejected on the grounds that she made too much money.

Her options to receive aide?

  1. She could quit both her jobs.
  2. She could have more kids.

She chose to let her house go back to the bank and move in with her mother. She picked up a third part-time job.

The first story is about an individual who seems happy in a job I am not sure most people would keep if all else fails. The second story is about a couple who has disregarded commonplace responsibility, given up on their dreams, and settled for a lifestyle of shame-ridden handouts. The last is the story of courage and hope; a woman who refused to allow life’s situations and the temptation of a free ride to dictate her life and rob her children of a bright future.

Where does one draw the line on what is commonplace and what is living beyond one’s means? What causes people to give up and settle for less? How do we obtain this abstract drive to better ourselves and our environment? I believe we can all agree that a life without worry is one of bliss, but does that mean we avoid commonplace responsibilities in the process?

The janitor could be rich and just doing her job out of goodwill or finishing her university degree and lacks extra cash. My family might actually find peace in not working and attempting to live beyond their means. The single mother may just be too prideful and doing more harm than good.

We largely control where we are in life and by what means we get there. My final question is, when given our lot in life, do we have enough personal responsibility to make the most it or do we simply give up?

Thanks for reading,

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