Life isn’t supposed to be this way. You’re not supposed to skip suppers and feed your kids with gift cards.

You’re a single mother. Your name is Deidra. Your wallet has three bucks in it. You have an old Visa gift card with twelve dollars left on it.

Something bad happened today.

It wasn’t because of anything you did. It’s because you’re in your late-thirties, and teenagers can do your job cheaper. They cut your hours. Management’s way of firing you.

You reacted. You let your manager have it. You called him an awful name. You wish you could take it back.

You cry in your car. You wipe your face. Then cry again. You wait for your kids to exit the free daycare.

And here you are, sorting mail while you wait. Power bill. Water bill. Cellphone bill. Cable. Insurance. It never ends.

Your kids run toward you. There are kisses, hugs. You notice how tall your oldest is. Your nine-year-old colored a picture.

They talk loud and happy.

You’re thinking about what’s inside your refrigerator for supper. A few slices of bologna, half a liter of Coke, old carrots, two eggs.

You look in your purse. The gift card.

You drive to a pizza buffet. It’s six bucks for your oldest, four bucks for the youngest—not counting soda.

You slide your card and hold your breath.

Life isn’t supposed to be this way. You’re not supposed to skip suppers and feed your kids with gift cards.

You’re young, pretty, healthy. You’re supposed to be happy. Instead, you’re a few dimes shy of homelessness.

After the meal, you leave eighty-four cents for a tip. That’s all the loose change you have—you’re saving your last three dollars.

You drive. Your gas gauge is on E.

You’re humiliated. That’s how poverty works. It embarrasses a person, until they think so little of themselves, they don’t like their reflection.

You pull into a gas station. You’re going to put three dollars into your old Ford Contour. Not a penny more.

You walk inside to pay cash.

There’s a man in line, behind you. He’s tall. Longish hair. Dirty boots.

He sees you throw three dollars down. He steps forward and says, “I’ll pay for her gas.” He places thirty dollars on the counter.

“You don’t have to do that,” you tell the man.

He doesn’t answer. He just smiles. You’re embarrassed. You head for your car.

He follows. “Wait!” he hollers.

Now, you’re scared. Some weirdo is following you, and God knows what he’s got in mind. You’ve seen the ten-o’clock news.

You jump into your car and lock the doors. You start the engine.

He raps on the window. “Please,” he says. “I’m not gonna hurt you.”

After a few minutes, he doesn’t leave. You roll down your window—against your better judgement.

The man hands you an envelope with four hundred-dollar bills in it. Crisp bills. Four.

“It’s all I got,” he says. “Wish it were more.”

He says nothing else and walks away. He does not step into a car. He does not mount a bicycle. He walks into the darkness, and he’s gone.

Maybe you don’t think there is something up there, watching over you.

Deidra wants you to know there is.

45 comments

  1. Steve Winfield - September 23, 2018 5:45 am

    I wish I could be that guy. Save every dog, help everyone I meet that needs it. I paint rental houses for realtors. My wife is my only employee. We have a 9 yr old daughter that attends the gifted classes in public school. She gets new Wal-Mart clothes often. God blesses us with work that pays our bills. I give 5’s to beggars once or twice a week. Not much but they smile. I pray for those in need. I do wish I were able to do much more.

    Reply
    • Wanda Farish - November 20, 2018 1:25 am

      People like you make America great five dollars at a time. Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Cynthia Saunders - September 23, 2018 5:53 am

    All of the things you said are true. It is the scariest storm of your life. It is humiliating. You are broken and the pain is so real it incapacitates you. But all storms come to an end and eventually you survive…and then the thriving begins! To all of us single mommas…WE ARE ROCK STARS!

    Reply
  3. Frieda Borntrager - September 23, 2018 6:10 am

    Thank you, Jesus, for “angels among us.” Real ones, who have no wings.

    Reply
  4. carol0goodson - September 23, 2018 9:36 am

    Sean, you really are an angel; God bless you for your compassion and generosity.

    Reply
  5. Jean - September 23, 2018 10:28 am

    Just sitting here tears running down my face.

    Reply
  6. Nancy Thomaston Rogers - September 23, 2018 11:34 am

    Dang it Sean, I am crying again. I have to stop though, time to go walk dogs and clean cat cages at the animal shelter. You are right though about poverty. I have been where I didn’t like my own reflection.

    Reply
  7. TIFFANY INNES - September 23, 2018 12:03 pm

    You’re stories and writing are amazing!! Thank you for what you do!

    Reply
  8. Susan - September 23, 2018 12:14 pm

    Thank you. It has been a few years, but everyone once and a whille everyone needs to look back to see how far they have come..

    Reply
  9. Joy - September 23, 2018 12:27 pm

    Thank you Lord that you place people in our lives to help us in our time of need. Thank you Lord for Sean and the gifts You have given him to write these posts and for the way they inspire us to see others and reach out to them. I have been blessed by the generosity of others at times when I really need help, and I know it was You Lord who touched them to help me!

    I Love you Lord, and Love you Sean.

    Reply
  10. Rhonda howell - September 23, 2018 12:33 pm

    Nothing hurts worse than trying as hard as you can and still falling short. Working till you bleed for a paycheck that says “still in the hole”. Dealing with all those eyes. Your kids eyes that learn early they are judged by a parents paycheck. The eyes of thise who take your late payments. Those that watch you in the store judging everything you are putting in your cart. Those eyes in the mirror that look back at you saying you work 3 jobs and you still aren’t smart emough to get ahead.

    Thank you for making a difference and seiing her with the eyes of your heart.

    Reply
    • jackmokan - September 23, 2018 5:37 pm

      For a deeper dive read “Heartland”, by Sarah Smarsh: A memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.

      Memories from the land of Sean’s Father, Kansas.

      Love your work Sean!

      Reply
  11. Grace - September 23, 2018 12:47 pm

    I’m blessed and acutely aware of it. God bless you and the kind stranger. Giving is good and most of us can do more. 🙏🏻

    Reply
  12. Toni Tucker Locke - September 23, 2018 1:32 pm

    Wow, Sean. Your writing never ceases to amaze me. I have been the recipient of good deeds and I have been the giver. I’m not sure who is more blessed. Thanks for reminding us to care, to actually be a blessing to someone.

    Reply
  13. Kathy Daum - September 23, 2018 1:36 pm

    Except “it’s” not up there. It’s among us.

    Reply
  14. that's jack - September 23, 2018 1:39 pm

    I come to this site for this! Love it my friend. I appreciate real heart warming stories!

    Reply
  15. Chuck - September 23, 2018 1:39 pm

    That man was either “an angel on Earth” or a real angel. BUT, Sean, YOU ARE an angel among us: giving hope to the hopeless, encouragement to the downtrodden, smiles to the those who have no other reason to smile. Thanks for being the kind of human that you are. Such a joy to read each day.

    Reply
  16. Arlene - September 23, 2018 1:41 pm

    I love your stories. I think your young lady could have spent her money in a better way. Maybe buy some ground beef or chicken and make hamburgers and a veggie instead of pizza

    Reply
    • Julie Y - September 23, 2018 2:04 pm

      Arlene, I confess (with shame) I had a flash of the same thought about the half litre of coke her fridge. But methinks that you and I need to really take to heart Rhonda Howell’s comment above.

      Reply
      • Arlene - September 23, 2018 2:54 pm

        We need to help these poor people learn how to live a better life. It starts with education. There are food stamps available also. I wonder if she knows about this. I am not blaming her, I just wish she knew how to take better care

        Reply
        • Alice Grimes - November 19, 2018 7:58 pm

          Arlene and the rest of you who want to teach “these poor people” how to manage better you should be ashamed of yourselves for sitting in judgement. I am positive that response was not expected nor desired by Sean. Clearly you have never been at rock bottom and you certainly have no idea how she got to this place in her life. To miss all the good of this story and focus on what was in her refrigerator and what she used her last few dollars on to feed her girls says a lot about you all. Why don’t you stuff your judgement away and spend some time volunteering and getting to know some of these people that Sean takes the time to look on the inside and also shows them respect and compassion.

          Reply
  17. Linda Pouncey - September 23, 2018 1:42 pm

    It’s not something up there watching over you, it’s someone.

    Reply
    • Richard C. - September 23, 2018 5:36 pm

      My thoughts exactly.

      Reply
  18. Pete m - September 23, 2018 1:50 pm

    We need more of taking care of our own. God is watching us.

    Reply
  19. Brenda McLaine - September 23, 2018 2:23 pm

    Wow.

    Reply
  20. janiesjottings - September 23, 2018 2:32 pm

    Great story Sean! Single mom’s have a special place in my heart. As a babysitter for the children of 3 single mom’s I see their heartache on a daily basis and am inspired by their love for their child. Often they receive no child support or help from anyone yet they keep trying to make a better life for their child. They are among my heroes.

    Reply
  21. Selene Montgomery - September 23, 2018 2:32 pm

    There are angels around us all tthe time and we never recognize them as such until the moments are past. I’ve had experiences with no other possible explanation.

    Reply
  22. Carol - September 23, 2018 2:46 pm

    I know there is a greater power watching over us!
    His name is Jesus!
    Thank you !
    Love ya!

    Reply
  23. Frank Huggins - September 23, 2018 2:47 pm

    Wow!!

    Reply
  24. Edna B. - September 23, 2018 3:18 pm

    I’ve been there too, and I know the heartache. But there are angels watching over and we manage to get through. At least a lot of us do. We all need to pitch in and help other less fortunate than us. God bless you, and have a wonderful day. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  25. Peter Heyer - September 23, 2018 4:41 pm

    Beautiful, thank you.

    Reply
  26. Susie, as well - September 23, 2018 4:48 pm

    Beautiful story, and beautiful drawing. I always look forward to them both. Today’s picture is especially good, though.

    Reply
  27. Richard C. - September 23, 2018 5:33 pm

    It is not a “something”. He is God.

    Reply
  28. Debra Kuhl - September 23, 2018 5:35 pm

    Thank you Sean Dietrich😍 I’ve been there.
    Your kids (your Mom, I suppose) are happy.
    That’s the best present😎

    Reply
  29. Susan L Parker - September 23, 2018 5:52 pm

    Yes, indeed. It is not something looking out for ys, but Someone, who loves us more than can even be imagined. God. Thank you, Sean, for writing in a way that makes Him plain to see.

    Reply
  30. Mary Ellen Hall - September 23, 2018 7:19 pm

    I TRULY BELIEVE there are ANGELS walking around w/ us on Earth! Another example of y we should ALWAYS REMEMBER who is watching out for us!!
    THANK YOU for this, Sean!!!🐾

    Reply
  31. perry5360 - September 23, 2018 8:03 pm

    Great change of style, nice twist. Great story.

    Reply
  32. Shelton Armour - September 23, 2018 9:59 pm

    Thank the Lord for the angels on earth who walk among us. Great story-hope it spurs those who can to action.

    Reply
  33. Katz - September 23, 2018 11:03 pm

    Amen! There but for the grace of God………
    Always pay it forward.

    Reply
  34. Walt Carter - September 24, 2018 1:07 am

    Your story makes me want to go out in the morning and find someone that needs my help. We have more than we need and we all should share our abundance with those in need. Thanks for a great story.

    Reply
  35. Bill - September 24, 2018 1:20 am

    He is always there his name is Jesus and he is pure Love, thanks Brother.

    Reply
  36. jstephenw - September 24, 2018 2:48 am

    Damn Sean! Well played. Decent writers make you want to keep reading. GREAT writers make you want to give Deidra money through their tears. That is why you are now at times (do not get the big head) a great writer. I will tell you that I have paid bigger tips, lunches for kids at my granddaughter’s school who were behind, and paid someone’s bill in front of me that looks like they are struggling, etc. because of you. You may have us fooled, but I really do believe you give a damn. Makes me want to as well. Thanks again.

    Reply
  37. John - September 24, 2018 3:19 am

    Good things are real! Good people exist , they are everywhere…..in all shapes and sizes.Thanks!

    Reply
  38. LaVera S. - September 24, 2018 9:12 am

    Beautiful! God I thank you for this wonderful experience and life changing story!

    Reply
  39. GigiBeth - November 19, 2018 1:22 pm

    Be the blessing.

    Reply

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