She looked at the ugly drab green chairs in the waiting area. She wondered why anyone would make a chair that color, let alone buy them. The walls were a depressing shade of what must have once been white. Posters hung on the walls instead of beautiful artwork or paintings. The old fluorescent lights shining through dead bugs and accumulated dust inside the panels completed the dismal room.
A woman with two children sat across from her. The baby cried and squirmed in her arms while she tried to quiet the hyperactive toddler. Jessie found it hard to believe so many people needed help and even harder to believe she was one of them.
It was finally her turn to go into the row of cubicles. The caseworker looked at her paperwork never raising her eyes to look at Jessie. Jessie shuffled in her chair waiting for the inevitable questions. She wondered why you had to fill out all the paperwork if they were just going to ask you the same questions. But, she needed help and if this were what it took, she would comply.
She wondered how she ever come to a place where she would be applying for government assistance? The caseworker said it would be thirty days before she would receive her food stamps. She handed Jessie a flyer about some programs at a church just around the block. They usually had hot meals and bags of groceries. Jessie felt even more defeated and alone. A church was the last place she wanted to go.
She had given up on praying. If God was there, He certainly didn’t hear or care about her prayers. She remembered the stories from Sunday school. Wonderful stories about God taking care of everyone. They said God took care of the birds, so we knew God took care of us. We never needed to worry about anything because God was watching over us. So where was He now when she so desperately needed help?
She started making her way to the church. It was snowing again and her threadbare sweatshirt was little protection from the bitter cold. She had a few dollars left and stopped at the liquor store. She bought two bottles of the cheapest vodka. Back outside, she opened one and took a long drink. She shoved the bottles into her backpack and kept walking.
An older woman greeted her and showed her the way to the food line. The woman reminded Jessie of her mother. She had been unprepared for her mother’s death last year. She remembered the call from the hospital. She wondered how it went from “your mother has been in a car accident” to “your mother passed away.” She didn’t remember much about the days that followed. She did everything on autopilot, calling the Pastor, picking the casket, and then the funeral. Drinking helped her forget.
“Hi, my name’s Pat. Mind if I sit with you?”
“If you want.”
“I saw you as you came out of the liquor store.” I live just down the street.”
Jessie looked down at her food. She kept eating and didn’t respond.
“I used to go there myself. I had a real problem with drinking but I’ve been sober for two years now.”
“So why are you telling me your little life story?” Jessie snapped.
“I just wondered if you might want to talk someone who understands.”
“Understands? Understands what? You don’t know anything about me.”
“I may understand more than you think. I understand what it means to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Jessie looked at her for the first time. How could this woman possibly know how she felt? She felt the tears begin to roll down her cheeks.
“Yeah. I am so tired of everything. Tired of feeling like this. Tired of trying to pray. Tired of…” Jessie stopped before she said the words.
“Tired of living like this?” Pat asked.
“Yeah.” It was all Jessie could say.
Pat put her arms out and gave a Jessie a hug. “Why don’t you come back to my apartment? We can talk. I’ll tell you my ‘little life story’ and how I found a solution.”
Jessie walked with Pat back to her apartment. She wondered if maybe, just maybe, God had heard her after all.
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