Most of the every day activities we do in our lives occur without too much thought. We take them for granted. And why shouldn't we? It doesn't take much planning to go to grocery store, buy clothes, head to your job or the hundreds of other activities you do on a regular basis.
So what do you do when you need to get your vision checked? Most of us head to an eye doctor or optical store. We get an eye test and if needed, we buy a pair of glasses or contact lenses. Sounds simple enough. It's something a lot of us do every year.
But what if your situation is different than most people. What if the economy wiped out all of your life savings and left you without a place to live? What if you spent a couple of years living in multiple shelters trying to salvage your life and get back on your feet? What if you finally escaped homelessness but are now living on a fixed income. Thirty per cent of that is going to rent and you're trying hard to make ends meet on the rest of that small income?
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.
Everyone has to make choices in their lives but when you've been homeless and are now living on a limited income, those choices are magnified. A bad decision could have a disastrous effect on the rest of your life. Man, that's a lot of pressure....especially over something like a pair of glasses.
Yet that's the situation my friend J. found herself in.
She has finally overcome all those challenges I mentioned. She is living a better life than she has in years and seems happy. Housing-check. Food-check. New glasses-ehhhh a little problem.
So when J. needed new glasses she did what most of us do without a second thought. She gets the exam, picks out a pair of glasses. Hmmm...she needs bi-focals or progressives. Uh oh! Better lenses? Uh oh! Reflective lenses? Uh oh!
The glasses now are priced at $500. A simple decision over eye care has turned into a major decision.
Yeah, she could have done without the bells and whistles and found a less expensive pair of glasses, but there are times when you want to do something nice for yourself. That's especially true when you've gone through tough times. Something like a nice pair of glasses would make you feel better about your life and yourself.
The shelter where J. lived, and now does volunteer work, has a savings program. The main purpose of the program is for the residents that are homeless to put away enough money to use as a deposit and rent for permanent housing. But J. already has that. Her basic needs are taken care of. Maybe she can save for these glasses? YES!!
She sets up a plan to put away $50 every month. If you do the math, you've figured out it's going to take ten months to save $500. WOW...almost a year for a pair of glasses. But every month, without fail, she came in and made a deposit...and it started adding up.
One hundred dollars....okay.
Two hundred dollars....hmmmm.
Two hundred-fifty dollars....halfway there!
Three and four hundred dollars....getting close...oh so close.
Four Hundred-fifty dollars....ONE MONTH TO GO!!!
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!!! FINALLY!!!
J. did it. She celebrated her accomplishment by ringing this bell the shelter has to acknowledge an achievement....and then she went out and bought her glasses. Small steps lead to big victories.
I saw the glasses for the first time about a month ago. They're gold and shiny. They're pretty impressive but not as impressive as what it took to get them.
This is part of the Faces of Homelessness series. You can find other stories by clicking on the link.
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