Survive on $1.00 an hour?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
No, it was not in an impoverished country. It was in the wealthy United States. And $1.00 an hour was my princely salary for four months of work in a professional office.Skip to next paragraph
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Although this was quite a while ago, when a buck was worth much more than today, similarly qualified colleagues on the staff were earning almost three times more. Unjust? Perhaps. Yet this was such a well-known firm in my profession that it was a privilege for someone from overseas (like me) to work there, even for a pittance.
Actually, I not only survived on that salary but even saved money.
How? That job had come to me after I'd gained a new insight on what income really is. Out of necessity.
This was my first overseas trip. I'd hoped to expand my professional experience before returning to my native country. Seeing my small supply of traveler's checks fast disappearing, I was beginning to fear that my stay would have to be cut short. And the more fearful I became, the faster the money disappeared.
One day I had just a few coins left before needing to cash another traveler's check. It was then that I woke up to my need to pray instead of worrying. By pray, I mean gain a clearer understanding of what truly constitutes our income.
Though I don't recall my prayers exactly, I know they involved reasoning from the standpoint of what is true spiritually. Here is a basic starting point: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 307).
What are some of the ideas God gives? God, as the creative divine Mind, imparts to us all the qualities of intelligence, wisdom, perception, insight, creativity. As Life, God is the source of all that really lives, and He imparts alertness, vitality, wakefulness, activity. As all-encompassing divine Love, God gives lovingkindness, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, cooperation. As universal Truth, God supplies truthfulness, integrity, uprightness, justice.
Someone expressing qualities like these would be wonderfully employable. Also, such qualities are inexhaustible. Would you ever say, "I've used up so much truthfulness today that there won't be enough left for tomorrow"? On the contrary, the more truthfulness that's expressed, the more abundant is the evidence of it. Nor could you say, "I've run out of nines, so I can't add." Since nine exists as a useful numerical idea, the supply of nines is inexhaustible.
Seeing income in terms of ideas or qualities that are inexhaustible was an awakening for me. My basic need, then, wasn't to get more money but to express more fully the ideas or qualities God was constantly giving out. Qualities like gratitude, which wipes out complaining. Love and trust, which blast away fear and doubt. Generous giving, which obliterates greedy getting. Complaint, fear, and doubt are poverty thoughts. Gratitude, love, trust, and generosity are rich thoughts. God is always expressing richness in us, as inevitably as the sun expresses itself in light.
As a result of my prayer, my whole attitude changed. My anxiety gave way to trust. My fear for the future gave way to assurance. The quotation continues, "Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment." After all, we always live in today. When tomorrow comes, it's already today!
That's what I found. When I refused to doubt, I did have what I needed each day. In fact, it was several days before I cashed another traveler's check, and yet I still had those few coins. Everything I needed had been supplied in simple, unexpected ways.
So that's why, when I was offered that job at $1.00 an hour, the smallness of the salary didn't faze me. That's why I was grateful for the job. It reinforced what I'd already been learning about God's supply to me being independent of salary levels or figures in a bank account.
My remaining time in the States was rich with new experiences, friendships, and cultural treasures. I felt an outpouring of generosity and love. It's everyone's right not only to survive but to flourish, on the basis of these universal spiritual truths about income.