I sat silently in my little red compact car, smelling as if I bathed in a mix of industrial cleaning products, dust and good old-fashioned garbage. The auto cruised past the 39th Street exit on northbound Missouri 291.

I sat silently in my little red compact car, smelling as if I bathed in a mix of industrial cleaning products, dust and good old-fashioned garbage. The auto cruised past the 39th Street exit on northbound Missouri 291. The green letters on the car’s digital clock read 12:37 a.m.

Fatigue was getting the best of me. There had been a full workday at the newspaper, followed by an early evening Board of Aldermen meeting and four-plus hours cleaning parts of a large church in Lee’s Summit. The last seven bucks I had to my name were left at the gas station, allowing for the purchase of just enough fuel to allow two to three days worth of travel; a check later in the week would float me until payday. Before the city government meeting, I’d consumed my sixth and seventh peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches of the day.

No one attends college for five years to live the life described in the previous paragraph. No one works two years making $18,000 annually to live the life described in the previous paragraph. I gripped the steering wheel as the car accelerated down the super steep hill. Tears crept down my face as I begged God to put me someplace else.

I wanted a place where my home wasn’t heated solely by space heaters; a place where there was more to eat than Ramen noodles and variations of PB&J; a place where I wasn’t consistently bouncing checks (thank goodness for overdraft protection). Probably most importantly, a place where the woman I thought I would marry would want to live.

As I neared the lonely exit at Truman Road, I was angry at God. I was submissive with God. I begged and pleaded like a man with zero options and the fierce unrelenting belief that if nothing ever changed, life would never get better. 

As a journalist, I should have felt ashamed of myself.

I’d written hundreds of stories, and placed a few hundred column feet of wire stories, about real problems. My house never burned down. My car had never been T-boned at an intersection. The Missouri River never leapt over its banks and destroyed all my worldly possessions. No one ever kidnapped my loved one and used the Little Blue River as an impromptu burial site. I’d never traveled to the food pantry, only to find there was precious little food to be had.

Nope, I was just a man who was truly poor for the first time in life. I still had food, a place to live, a car that worked, and a job. I was OK.

I arrived home about 12:50 a.m.,  ate PB&J 8-9 and went to sleep.