The other day, I was in the grocery store chatting it up as I was waiting in line. The conversation inevitably turned to the weather and the impending, much-earlier-than-normal heat wave. When the lady in front of me said with a smile, “It’s going to drive up my electric bill. It’s going to be tough, but we’ll make it work.”
It was a seemingly innocent statement, but it stuck with me. Yes, I know that the more you have to run the air conditioner the higher the electric bill. (Trust me, I know August is when the meter runs constantly.) But there was something simpler, more earnest in her statement.
She was having to consciously think about choices. How much does she run the air conditioner? How much will her bill be? What would she have to trade in order to get the amount of cool, comfortable air she’d need? Would she have to work extra shifts to cover the unexpected expense from an early heat wave? Was this a sign that her entire summer would cost her more?
We continued chatting about the upcoming weekend, the glorious freedom of a Saturday without plans, and then just like that we went our separate ways. But it’s been nearly a week, and I’m still thinking about her.
I’m also thinking about my own situation. That a heat wave is more of a nuisance and less of financial hurdle. And then I think about all of the other seemingly mundane things that I do on a regular basis.
I fill up my car with gas, buy groceries, turn the air conditioner down to frigid to sleep, take the critters to the vet. I don’t stop to wonder if I should fill up the car all the way. I don’t weigh out what I should and shouldn’t’ buy at the grocery store, although Cowboy would tell you it’s so much cheaper when I stick to the list. I just do what I need to do.
And then it hits me, all of this day-to-day living that I don’t have to think about is a gift. Sure, Cowboy and I work hard, but so do most people I know. Working hard is not a guarantee. It’s not a free pass from thinking about the little things.
Don’t get me wrong, Cowboy and I have to make a budget and live within our means. We talk about things like how much money gas costs or what we should budget for necessary house maintenance or how much hay the horses will eat in a year. But we don’t have to make hard choices like having enough to eat versus melting in the hot Texas sun.
I am reminded that we live in a community of amazing and diverse people. And sometimes there are those amongst us that need a hand, and we should be willing and able to give it. It can be as simple as picking up a few extra canned goods at the grocery and donating them to your local food bank, or leaving an extra nice tip for a waitress who is working her tail off to serve you. It’s things like checking on your elderly neighbors and just spending a few minutes of time to make sure they are okay and to show that you care.
We’re all in this life together, and sometimes it just takes the simplest sentence in the grocery store line to give us the reminder we need, to jolt us out of our comfort zone. If we will just walk around with our eyes wide open, we will find so many ways to share, care, and give. And you just never know when that simplest act of kindness can change someone’s day or even their life.