I was standing in the dry storage closet at work, trying to keep the tears back so they wouldn't run my mascara. Having blurred eyeliner hurts your tips. It was not just one of those days - it was one of those months.
See, as a 25 year old divorced woman living alone and waiting tables to pay for college tuition, holidays don't mean family-time, they just mean over-time. I got an email earlier today informing me that I did not get accepted into my college program and I would have to wait another 3 months before I could try again. I felt as though the last year of struggling to pay tuition and books and fees had been for nothing. I would have to wait another 3 months, retake classes, and pay for yet another semester trying to pull up my GPA a few fractions of a point. Having my dreams of Teaching in a classroom, a career I have always wanted, completely dashed I tried to pretend that table 52 not having enough chips with their dip, or that table 41's preference for no ice, two extra lemons and a lime with their diet Pepsi was of the utmost importance. And yet the not so gentle tone in my managers voice, a snappy demand from a costumer, finding a 0.00 on tip line of the check, and getting triple sat all at once sent me over the edge.
So I stood there in the dry storage trying not to cry, and failing. It took a few minutes but I was finally able to finish my shift. Seeing young couples with babies, old happy married couples, and even a girl I went to high school with all happy, all surrounded by people who loved them enjoying a meal. It was hard knowing I would go home, to my little place with no festive decorations, no friendly faces, no loved ones. Just alone.
As I pulled into the driveway at 2 am after closing and cleaning the restaurant I was so tired I practically tripped as I opened my door. Someone left a large Christmas tub at my stoop, at first I thought it was popcorn or cookies from my neighbors, but when I lifted it I was shocked at its weight. Sitting down on my stairs I opened the gift to find hundreds, even thousands, of coins inside with $45 folded up on top. A book tied to the canister titled "Christmas Jars"
My breath stopped and for the first time since my divorce, I cried happy tears instead of sad ones. I simply couldn't believe that someone would do something so nice, so much, for me. Sob after sob, I had never been so grateful for spare change. It took several minutes to regain my composure. Only to lose it again and again crying every time I looked at the several pounds of coins sitting next to me on the stairs. I sat there thinking, it was all too much. It was simply too big of a gesture, it couldn't have been meant for me. Maybe they had the wrong house. I don't really have any friends, I don't attend a church - and only a few classmates from study group knew where I lived. And yet - there it was propped on my door. It meant I was not alone. It meant that someone cared enough to spend months collecting change ˆ for me. It meant that I was loved. Something I hadn't felt in a very very long time.
Counting the change, took much longer than I anticipated and half a box of Kleenex. Totalling to $193.64. This could pay my grocery bill for 3 months, or my phone bill for half a year. But the real gift, the real gift is the love. It is knowing that I am not facing the challenges of world completely alone, because somewhere out there someone is putting their change in a jar.