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  • Eileen Zilch

Living on $2.00 a Day

As I got in line to unload my groceries onto the belt at Walmart last week, I looked at the young man in front of me who was unloading the few items in his cart. He looked to be about 21 or 22. He had long, greasy hair, and was wearing a beat up t-shirt and zippy, sweat pants and flip flops - on this mid-March still very winter-like Michigan day. Having just finished reading $2.00 a Day, and having learned about the "hidden" homelessness and poverty in my own hometown, my antenna was up. Although I should have been quickly unloading my own grocery cart, I wanted to catch this young man's eye and encourage him in some way. His cart contained 2 full cases of ramen noodle soup, a few 2 liters of Walmart-brand pop, and an open package of breakfast rolls. He told the cashier that he found the open package on the clearance rack - probably because there was one item missing from the package. When she rang it up, it came up at $3 - full price. He politely asked her to take it off the order. Just as the cashier finished ringing up his order, his girl friend ran up and announced that she couldn't find their $5 bottle deposit refund.

In the past, I probably would not have even noticed this young couple, nor their obvious struggle, as I focused on getting my shopping done and getting home to do the next task on my list. But not that day. As a mom of 4 who has three daughters out on their own with their own varying levels of struggle, my heart was breaking. I asked the young man if he would mind if I paid for his groceries. He gave me that "what the heck are you even talking about" look as his head tilted to the side and he processed what I was saying. He allowed me to encourage him to go get an unopened package of breakfast rolls and to pay his 20 something dollar grocery bill. After they headed out of the store, the cashier told me that before I got in the check out line, his girlfriend had a meltdown when she realized that she couldn't find their bottle deposit refund and decided to run through the store to retrace her steps hoping to find it.

People living on $2.00 a day are real in the United States, and they are real in Howell, Michigan. If I needed any confirmation about the work we are doing to provide affordable housing and services to those in Michigan who need them, I got it last week.

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