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When the dark times come!

From 2005-2012 I was a manager of what was called by many a “dollar store”, though very few items were a dollar. In the surrounding St. Louis area, there were about twenty-three stores in our district. Over the seven years I was manager of about seven of those stores. The stores were placed not in the best parts of towns but in some of the worst areas of the cities. They were low income areas and shoplifting was a regular occurance. Armed robberies took place much too often.

One December Saturday morning, I had opened the doors and sat down at the computer that was at the front of the store looking at the previous days emails. I heard the front door open but did not look up immediately, until I heard someone say, “give me all the money”. At first I thought that it was someone playing a joke until I looked up and saw a man wearing a mask and a gun pointed at my head. He told me to lock the door, which I did, then told me to open the safe.

The safe at this particular store sometimes took several tries for it to open, I had told him this as I nervously bent down. I will never forget the words he said next, “You had better hope it opens the first time, or I won’t hesitate to shoot”, as he continued pointing the gun at my head. I said a little prayer, that I would remember the combination and that it would open on the first attempt. By God’s grace both happened.

After giving him all the money out of the safe, then all the money out of the register, he motioned me towards the backroom. With the gun inches from my head I quickly did what he said, thinking all along that this was it. Once arriving at the swinging doors leading to the back, he told me not to come out for five minutes. After five minutes I slowly came out of the backroom and called the police. The police station just so happened to be directly in back of the shopping center where the store was located, though it didn’t take long it seemed like it took hours for the police to get there.

During the whole twenty minutes that this man was in the store and even a few hours after, I felt no panic, was I scared of course but I knew that if I made one mistake, my life could have ended on that day. I know that God was protecting me and giving me the peace that I needed to make it through.

It was about four hours later when the circumstances of the morning hit me like a brick. We had tickets to see the stage version of A Christmas Carol with some friends of ours and I can say with all honesty I remember none of it.

My supervisor had told me that if I needed I could take a few days off to clear my head, but I told her that the best thing for me to do was to get right back to work. So, after my regular Sunday off, back to work I went. To say I was a little nervous was an understatment, but I knew that the more I put it off the harder it would be.

That Saturday morning, fortunately was the only time that I was personally at the store when it was robbed, though it happened a few times when I wasn’t at work. But, through the years the stress of the job, and the responsibilities that kept growing was taking a huge toll on my mental and physical health. My blood pressure was at a dangerous level, I couldn’t sleep, and depression was overtaking my entire world. It was also causing friction in my home life, mainly because I could not seperate work from home. And, many weekends away were interrupted by phone calls from either my supervisor or my employees. I was on a very dangerous path, But I was too stubborn to say “I give up”.

Then in 2012 it was taken out of my hands, I was putting paper towels on the shelves when I was called into the backroom, by my assistant supervisor, where my career at the “dollar store” came to an end. Frustration and anger came over me as I listened to the words “I’m sorry but I have to let you go”, come out of the mouth of my supervisor.

I walked out of the backroom toward the checkout area to hand the store keys over to the assistant supervisor. With bitterness, my last words as a employee of this company, “Amazing, I went from Manager of the Month, to being fired less that a year later”, and I walked out of the door. It would several years before I would walk into another of these stores anywhere.

As I walked out of the door a deep feeling of relief came over my entire body, it felt like the burden of the entire world had suddenly been lifted. I was still angry and bitter, because now I was without a job and still needed to make a living, but I knew that this would be the best thing that had ever happened to me, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over me. I knew that things were going to be ok.

Life is going to have it’s ups and downs, How you come out of this roller coaster ride, depends on how you look at not only the downs but also the ups. Is the ride smooth or are you tossing and turning with every change in direction.

Things did, and has turned out for the best. I have always looked at life as a glass half full, things always work out for the best, even though at the time it feels like the world is falling around me.

God tells us that He won’t give us more that we can handle, but when it feels like it’s too much, just remember we don’t have to handle it alone, He is always with us holding our hand and showing us the way. Filling the half empty glass full with his love and protection.

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