I was sad to hear that the Gap is closing 200 stores in the next two years. In fact, I am sad in general to see so many brick and mortar stores close. In New York City, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue are filled with empty storefronts. The once beautiful window displays are replaced with paper covering the windows with notices of lease info.
When I was in high school I drove about 20 minutes north on I85 to get to Aviation Mall, in Glens Falls, New York which was the closest mall to my house that had a Gap. I mentioned before years ago on my blog, I loved working at the gap. Folding the shirts, setting up the displays according to the manuals, ringing up the clothes, helping the customers, explaining the difference between the Gap brand and Levi’s 550, 505 and 501. Talk about a dream job, I understood the saying “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
I earned $3.35 an hour which was the minimum wage in NY in 1989. I didn’t really care as I was more concerned with the employee discount which was typically 30% off and then occasionally 50% off on certain products at certain times and moreover, I was obsessed with the idea of working at a store I loved.
This experience has been on my mind lately as I was recently offered an internship/job teaching yoga and was offered the current Virginia minimum wage, wait for it, $7.50 an hour.
The reason I share this story is I was floored by the reality of the current minimum wage. I must admit it has been a really long time since I worked for the minimum wage. Now, you know, I am not great at math, but if I do some simple number crunching, I see something like this, 30 years later, the minimum wage has gone up $4.15. Can that possibly be right? ( I didn’t look it up but I am sure the NY State min wage is probably higher than in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but you get my point)
I keep coming back to this thought that the increase is so minimal (no pun intended) and I wonder why I am stuck on it. It is to see how far I have come? No, I know that isn’t the reason. Is it so I can have more compassion for people who are working hard to support their families and the idea of living paycheck to paycheck? Yes, that must be part of it. The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t really sure outside of raising my awareness.
While I have mixed emotions about Maid, and I got frustrated with the author at times, Stephanie said something very powerful at the very end of the book, “…I was starved for kindness.” And that brought everything together for me.
While fixing the problems that exist today to help those in need might be a long and complicated process, in the interim, maybe we can start with raising our level of awareness and offering kindness knowing that the person we are interacting with may be struggling and that a bit of kindness can go a long way.