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Two Dollars and Shattered Dreams

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As she stepped from the door of the clinic, she turned her face to the sky.   Grateful for the drizzling rain that was falling -- it was the only thing that could cover her tears of fear and shame.   Putting her hand into the threadbare pocket of the blue plaid overcoat that was two sizes too large, she wrapped her fingers around the last of their money.   Silently she ran both bills through her arthritic gnarled fingers and counted"One dollar.   Two dollars.   Two dollars was all that she had left until the end of the month and it wasn't even enough for the medicine she needed to take to her husband.

In her mind, she replayed the events of August when she found herself balanced on the same seesaw of hope and desperation.   That month her husband had ended up in the emergency room.   The medicine that he needed to stave off the deteriorating effects of diabetes wasn't affordable then either.   Rushed by ambulance to County General, he was barely conscious when the lights and siren were turned off outside the sliding glass doors.

Fifteen hours later -- after he was stabilized -- she was able to take him home.   Not having enough money for cab fare -- and the bus didn't run this late -- the hospital chaplain gave them a ride when his shift was over.   As they got out of the car, the chaplain slid her a soiled twenty dollar bill and it was this money that helped to pay for the medicine her husband needed in September.   Now this was October.

Married just over thirty years they had enjoyed a good life.   He was a long haul trucker and was gone for weeks at a time.   She was a waitress in the eastern Indiana truckstop where they had met so long ago.   With him on the road she juggled work and motherhood as she raised the four children that were produced during those short stretches when he was home between coasts.

Together they dreamed.   They dreamed of the day when they could retire and maybe move to North Carolina where their oldest daughter lived.   They dreamed of the day when their schedules would be more open and they could hit the open road together.   But those were dreams from last year before the accident.

Pulling into the lot one night after picking up a load of treated fence posts he popped the air brakes on and swung gracefully from the cab.   Pulling his coat around him to ward off the chill, he knew he just had one task left before he was to start a two week vacation -- the first vacation he'd ever had that would allow him to enjoy Christmas eve and Christmas day with her.   Walking slowly around the truck, he tugged the chains down the driver's side of the flatbed, making sure they were snug and secure.   Satisfied that the chains on that side of the trailer were tight, he moved around to the other side and repeated his chore.   And then it happened.

The third chain from the end came loose in his hand.   He didn't have time to figure out if the chain had broken or just worked itself loose during the trip home.   The cause didn't matter -- the effect was the same.   The posts rolled and dropped on him from a height of almost six feet.   Knocking him to the ground and stopping on his chest and legs he was knocked out quicker than an amateur in the ring with Ali.  

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No one knows how long he lay there before the dispatcher walked outside the shack to piss and smoke a cigarette.

The story you have just read is true.   While the precise circumstances change, it is repeated hundreds of times a day -- every day -- throughout the country.   While excessive dollars are pooled up into the hands and pockets of 1% of the population the other 99% are faced daily with the choice of food, shelter or medicine.  

In search of greater and greater profits for shareholders, corporations send more and more jobs overseas.   The result is fewer and fewer jobs here for Americans.   It doesn't take an Einstein to figure out the math.   Through manipulation and corporate greed, banks are soaking up any disposable income through increased fees, higher interest and tighter restriction.  

It's easy for the pompous to fail to understand the struggles that the average American is facing today.   As a fortunate few find themselves sitting -- for a season -- on the top of the financial hill, they fail to see the erosion that is occurring right under their feet.   They don't realize that the dynamics that are affecting so many people now are slowly eating away their hill of -- imagined -- security.   Let's hope they wake up before it's too late.

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Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publicaitons and news outlets including USAToday, CNN, Upsurge, CBS, Dream Row, Earthwalkers and others. He photographs and licenses images for all manner of commercial and editorial use as well as (more...)

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There's many people in this country just like the ... by Jerry Nelson on Thursday, Oct 13, 2011 at 8:50:36 AM
In the sense people do things for other people, we... by Mike Preston on Thursday, Oct 13, 2011 at 12:11:17 PM