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11.29.2010

EVERYONE'S GOT ONE

I took the day off from work, a Monday, giving myself an extension to a long Thanksgiving weekend.  Driving to the Social Security Administration Office not far from my house, I had a stack of papers and the governmental form requesting a new social security card due to a name change - my maiden back from a recent divorce.  Pulling into the parking lot I see hoards of cars and it is one minute till the doors are unlocked.  I join the host of people in line waiting for the official 9:00 a.m. opening of the doors.  Standing in line I do what I do - talk to those around me.  I am standing by a man who, as I introduce myself to him, tells me his name is Mike.  While idly waiting for the line to move forward I look at the sea of faces around me.  Everyone comes from somewhere.  Everyone has a life of some sorts.  Everyone is here for a reason.  Some are here because they are unemployed, are signing up for food stamps or some sort of governmental assistance, some are reporting changes of addresses that are imperative for them to receive their monthly check(s), some have lost a loved one and are beginning the process of settling an estate, some are signing up for social security as they are about to retire from a life of work, some like me are needing a new social security card for a new child-a new marriage-or a recent divorce.  I wondered scanning the sea of faces what each person's story really was.  What was their life like?  Mike, I can tell, is a veteran of coming to the Social Security office.  I surmise that he is no doubt unemployed and probably has been for some time.  The lady behind me I greet and comment on the cute child she has with her.  "My granddaughter," she says with tiredness worn like the tattered shirt she had on.  You could see that she had that child more than its mother did.  There was poverty and a shadow of despair that hung on her.  My heart wondered what her daily life was like, what her entire life had been like.  I thanked God for my blessings.  I wondered why I had the life I did, and she the life she did.  I follow behind Mike as the line slowly moves to some sort of registration terminal.  He follows the screen prompts like it was old hat to him.  When done, he turns to find a seat and I ask for his help, telling him I didn't quite know what to do - first timer I say:)  He smiles and actually does it for me.  He finds a chair and I decide, based upon my interactions with him, to sit by him for the long haul.  As I sit down I say, "Well, I stood by you in line I might as well sit by you for the next hour.  You ready for some conversation?!"  He laughed.  I was serious, but of course he doesn't know how I operate.  There was quite a contrast between us;  me - a 40 something middle class white woman with a job and, Mike - a 30 something black man from a life of struggle currently unemployed.  That didn't seem to stop our conversing.  I asked him questions about his life, did he have kids, how long has he been unemployed, what did he do for a living before, what does he want to do now, did his two boys play sports, how did he like that school system, why was he there (change of address), how was Thanksgiving, did he cook (he laughed and said he grills only!).  He told me about sweet potato pie-one of his loves, that his boys were 12 and 9 and played league and school football, that he had been a welder and lastly a purchasing agent for a glass company, unemployed for over a year.  And then, for whatever reason, he began to tell me about how he came to have his boys in the past two years.  His former girlfriend, who is the mother of his children, was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for operating a meth lab.  It appears that a call from a police officer changed his life and his boys too.  He shared that this year has been tough but that he was trying to get his boys settled into a better life.  I liked Mike and silently prayed for him sitting next to him.  When his number was called I patted him on the back and told him it was a pleasure to spend my first experience in the Social Security Office sitting by him and wished him well.  Soon before Mike left an older gentleman in his 80's and his son came and sat on the other side of me.  I introduced myself to them and asked how they were.  The son said they were there as his mother's funeral was Saturday.  I expressed my sorrow for he and his dad's loss.  He shared that the day his mom died (from complications of open heart surgery) was his parent's 58th wedding anniversary.  I glanced at his dad, grief and unsuredness of life seemed heavy on him.  The son continued....I asked questions.....he answered.  He had grown up here until he went to the East coast to college 35 years ago.  There he stayed upon graduating and had dealt in antiques and floral design.  I could tell that he was gay and that life here in the Bible belt would have been hard for him as a gay man 35 years ago.  He wasn't sure what all they needed to do to process his mother's death so they decided to come and talk to a representative.  I told them I had been there close to an hour and hoped they weren't in a hurry.  The son shared he was leaving to go back to the East coast after helping his dad today.  As they called my number I stopped in front of the father who was holding a folder of papers concerning his wife's death.  I told him that I was sorry for the loss of his love and he reached for my hand and thanked me.  I prayed for them inside my head as I stood touching the father's hand.  Walking to the clerk I thanked God for the chance to see a little bit of what everyone's got - a life.

3 comments:

  1. Wow...good stuff Lynn! So blessed!

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  2. What a nice post. I really love reading these types or articles. I can?t wait to see what others have to say..

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  3. Great, i found what i 've been lookin for

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