The year 2001 was the worst year of my life, and to this day, I struggle with what happened, what it cost my family, and what I could have done to stop it.
My family had several small grocery stores in the area. Starting in 1976, when we opened our first store, it was a success. Mom and Pop stores were still trendy, and ours was no exception. My dad couldn’t go anywhere without at least one person knowing him. I was sixteen, and I had to develop a strong work ethic and determination quickly.
We bought our second store a year later, and it fast became our busiest and most successful store. In its best years, the store was in the top three in sales of the 35 stores that were part of the company. I was the store manager, and I was very proud of what I was accomplishing.
In the late nineties, my dad was ready to slow down and start moving on with his life. My mom passed away in 1993. He was prepared to start a chapter, though he still had three stores to take care of. On the other hand, I was ready to create a new chapter. I was married and had three young boys, so I had an enormous responsibility. So in 1999, I bought the store from my father. It was a risk, but I was confident and arrogant enough to know that I could make it even stronger.
Unfortunately, stores like these were struggling to survive, and ours was no exception. Walmart was just taking control of the grocery market. The smaller privately owned businesses could not compete, and the end was rapidly approaching. Our family’s stores were hanging on, but only by a thread. My store was showing some signs, but I just knew I could save it.
Then the final nail was being hammered in. A new highway was being built a couple of miles up the road, shutting down the primary access to the store. It caused would-be customers to find alternative routes to get home from work or get into the city. The sales plummeted, and there was nothing I could do about it.
That self-confidence and arrogance were not allowing me to give in. I was going to bring it back, no matter what. Then the “no matter what” happened. In March 1993, I locked the doors for the last time. But not only did I have to close the store, but we also lost the home we had built, we lost our car, and I lost my self-confidence.
The pain and the guilt of my failure were so overwhelming that depression was a daily part of my life. I couldn’t look at my wife and kids without feeling that I had failed them.
Through it all, deep down, I knew that what was happening was happening for a reason. I just didn’t know what that reason was. I knew God wouldn’t allow anything to happen that I couldn’t handle. So, through all the guilt, I carried on.
Through the years, I have still struggled with a lack of confidence and guilt, but I also know that at no time did God leave my side through the good times and carry me through the bad times. He has lifted me up over the self-doubts, but he has also humbled me in a way that I needed to be humbled.
That is why he brought me to my knees. I learned what it means to be humble and not arrogant. Though because I am still a sinful human, the arrogance slips in. I thank God for at least showing me how.