Thursday, May 18, 2006

What Rough Beast

Just as we started to break through the fog and see beauty in life again we lost another one. My wife commented that we had as many loved ones on the other side waiting for us now as what we had here with us...as usual, she was right.

Shortly after Mom died I did something I should have done years earlier while Mom was here to see it...I quit a 3-pack a day habit. After 3 months I felt like I had won the battle. I don't think I was too bad...just don't ask my wife...she will lie about me. If you ever need encouragement kicking "death sticks" contact me and I will be glad to help.

During the first year or so business went remarkably smooth. We didn't suffer any unexpected expenses or wild swings in the gas market. We decided not to do anything drastic for at least a year. During the time Mom fought her cancer the state voted in the lottery. We signed up for it not really knowing what it meant...just knowing we had gotten tons of mail from the state saying we had better join in or we would be left out. It started just before she died. I remember the first day of lottery sales...we were only selling scratch off tickets then. I watched a women come in with $125 cash from her paycheck. She bought $20 worth of tickets and won $30. Instead of taking the money and going she spent it on $30 more. She lost it all. She kept buying, winning occasionally, but never taking the winnings and leaving. We tried to tell her to take it easy and stop but she became angry and told us to leave her alone. Eventually she lost her entire paycheck and commented that she had to pick up the kids at the day care and now didn't have the money to.

I didn't sell booze (we were in a 'dry' town...a town that doesn't sell alcohol) but I was doing something just as bad...I was participating in the state's "stupid tax"...taxing the ones who could least afford it. As time went by I watched others ruin theirs an their family's lives because of gambling addictions rooted in the lottery. This addiction was as bad as the one that killed Brother.

After Mom's died I met the new pastor at our church, Randy Rudisell. I was wanting to start back I told him the problems I had before with people's hipocracy. He said, "just give it one more try with no expectations. I guarantee you God won't disappoint". I did. I went back and ingored the people and found God there waiting. I will always be grateful to Dr. Randy for helping me break through the barrier that Christians can erect that keeps people out of fellowship with God.

Eventually I started teaching Jr. High guys in Sunday school. One Sunday we were talking about keeping yourself from getting into the bad crap of this world...like drinking and gambling. One of the guys, Casey (God bless him) asked "if gambling is wrong why do you sell lottery tickets at your stores?" I will love him forever for speaking his heart. I thought, "Well, he's right. Why am I part of the state's gambling racquet?"

Over the next few weeks I thought & prayed. I decided that I didn't want to be part of the problem any more. We quit selling lottery tickets. It became rapidly apparent that we couldn't do that and stay in business I told my wife "if I have to sell lottery tickets to stay in business I'm going to find another business to be in"

WHAT WAS I SAYING?!?! For 37 years I had towed the party line. What would I do? What could I do? I couldn't make a living outside the Family Business...Mom had assured me of that. The only thing I was good at other than business was computers and you couldn't make a living in computers unless you were a programer, right?

After fighting family, friends and demons I made the choice to get out of the Family Business...I took a GIANT leap of faith off a GIANT cliff against EVERYONE'S better advice. The day...the very instant I made that decision it was like a blanket of protection wrapped itself around me. I didn't know what laid ahead but I knew it would be ok and that I wasn't alone.

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