Hit me One more Time

No, this is not a reference to the beloved Britney Spears breakout hit..It is something I hear often where I am employed part time.

An event occurred not so long ago that won’t leave my thoughts.  It has caused me to stop and wonder often, it has mandated that I look inward to examine my own prejudice and incorrect assumptions.  I have to look at myself these days and ask, “How dare I?”

A couple weeks back I was working at a convenience store.  I was working the evening shift when a “regular” came in to spend the evening back in lottery land.  That is a whole world unto itself, where darkness looms and the blinking bulbs beckon.  As is customary with most lottery areas, the snacks, coffee, and other beverages are free flowing.  The idea that providing food and drink will lull one into spending more time and money hoping to hit it big.  Thus, part 1 of my title.  “C’mon, hit me one more time…Let’s win this one.  If I can, man would that be nice.”  I smile, inwardly I hope and inwardly I groan.

I groan because this is not my world, I know nothing of the lure, the lights, the lullaby of beeps.  I do not know what motivates a person to spend hours hitting a button, swearing at a screen, consuming large amounts of caffeine and booze.  I groan because I do not understand the hold, the hunger, or the havoc this world inspires in people.  “Hit me, Hit me. HIT ME!”

Here is where I begin ego checking.  Our “regular” in question was in this night, and obtaining their first and second complimentary suds.  A third, fourth, and fifth quickly followed as I watched a trip to the cash machine slow them for just a moment.  A small win…not much, but enough to keep at it for a bit longer.  A sixth and seventh, now–eight and nine together.  I grow frustrated in my spirit and begin a litany of slurs against this person.  None are over vocalized…none leave my mouth, but they are there–ready for spewing.  A tenth and eleventh one are handed over, and I roll my eyes, wondering…..Silently cursing anyone who has spent their evening in front of a machine with pretty lights and endless beeps…Wait a minute!!!!  Do we do that?  Does that happen in another form?  Maybe I should ask my little ones how many hours they spent in front of a blinking and beeping box this weekend?  I don’t think I want to know the answer.  I probably don’t want to count the hours I spend in front of a lap lighted box which allows me to say that I am “working” at all times.  SHAW!!! We all know that is untrue.

So, eleven seems to be the lucky number tonight…a bit later than before, not early enough to call it a night, they hit….I have seen them “hit me” more than one more time…11 times to be exact.  I grimace thinking of that sitting in a near empty stomach, the car keys that dangle, the later hour, the dark that has settled.  It is not my call, nor my business.  Then, they hit..they hit big–well bigger than before.

They come my way to cash in their earnings….A conversation ensues.  I comment on their attire….they smile and tell me they work in the nearest town.  I smile and ask what they do…The answer shocked me and cut my earlier inward diatribe short.  They work with women on a daily basis.  Women who come seeking answers in procedures they would probably wish to avoid….procedures which will change the course of lives forever.  My spirit stops….my heart breaks.  Of course it breaks for anyone in the moments of that decision…the grief, the turmoil—the THE’S I cannot possibly speak to or imagine–and I won’t.

Then my soul ached for another…the one standing in front of me….the one with a cash slip and a ready smile for me.  We speak and I mention that must be an “awesome” place to work for so many reasons.  They agree.  They shake their head in obvious thought and maybe remembrance.  I pause, knowing there is more to the story…there is always more.

They smile a smaller smile and comment that if anyone in their close circle of living ever knew what they did, they would alienate immediately.  I nodded, believing that to be true.  They then comment on what would happen if the congregation knew what they did daily, they would never be allowed in the doors of the church.  I sniff, knowing that to be more than true, and I am ashamed.  I mention that I am in the process of being an ordained Deacon…I have a ways to go, but have the solid MDIV in my hand.  WHO CARES?????  That slip of paper means nothing as a soul in conflict stands before me, only a counter separating us…..never realizing that far less actually separates us.

I am angry in that moment.  Their comment that they agree to volunteer with groups in the church, but are afraid to set foot in the doors….afraid of the judgment, the ridicule…the hatred.  OUCH.  I know this would hold true, I also know that there would be others who would embrace them with the unconditional love that is deserved….although that would be fleeting.

I am angry at myself in that moment…more than the supposed receipt that they would encounter.  I am angry about my thoughts, the hate that I wanted to sling at one who has spent their night…angry how many times I “hit them”….angry and disappointed in myself.

I know how they spent their evening…they spent it here, with me.  I have no idea how they spent their day…I have no idea what they saw, whose hands they held, whose tears they wiped.  I do not know the stories they heard, nor the inner workings of their story.  We chat a while more, they ask what I do….I tell them….they smile and thank me.  THANK ME????I look and cock my head to the side, like my pug does when she is “listening”.  They thank me for the kindness and the compassion I showed when they talked to me….for the willing ear and the assurance that they are a good person.  They are…a good person.

They leave…the machine has hit big for them, a tip comes my way.  I smile, now I can buy some gas to go to work later tomorrow.  More than the cash tip, they left me with an invaluable lesson.

I have my own vices, my own ways of coping or not coping with the world around me.  I have my moments of avoidance and fear-running.  We all do, don’t we?.  I do not know the road this person travels, the stories they carry, or their joy or struggle.  I do not know them….how dare I?

How dare I sit and judge the number of beverages downed?  How dare I silently curse them for their inappropriate lifestyles.  Who am I to judge that?  Who am I to think because I have a couple more letters behind my name that I am any better than those who spend all night before the money machine?  I gulp down my own pride and admit….I’m not.

So, as they venture my way again, they say with a broad smile, “Hit me Baby, one more time!”

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