“Scarcity and Abundance: A Case Study” by Alyssa Silvester

May 4, 2023

March 2017: Washington, DC

Spring has arrived in Washington, DC with cherry blossoms, pink and plump as cumulous clouds. Puffs of petals appear painted around the Tidal Basin, and the city swarms with tourists. After seven springs in Washington, peak cherry blossom week has not lost its allure. Married to a military physician, I don’t know if this spring will be my last in the nation’s capital, and I fervently hope it’s not. 

With glowing recommendations from attendings and three Army posts located in the metropolitan DC area, staying in DC after my husband’s residency is a foregone conclusion in my mind. I receive top reviews in my job as a communications professional. My husband and I lead Bible studies and welcome visitors at church on Sundays. Over seven years, I have built friendships at work, the gym, my neighborhood, church. I know the best public transportation routes and when to avoid driving on the Beltway (answer: nearly always). Our plan is to buy a condo downtown, then live the rest our lives downtown, and raise our future children downtown. 

One evening after work, my husband asks me to sit down. I don’t know what he is going to say, but I’m sure I don’t want to. We are in the “living room” portion of our studio. The smell of roasted chicken hangs in the air from dinner, and the tree outside our balcony is clothed in green. Horns and sirens float in on the breeze through open windows. I sit on the beige loveseat, and my husband sits next to me. My heart thuds in my chest and my hands are too shaky to hold my husband’s outstretched palm. He tries to catch my eyes, and I look straight ahead. 

“We didn’t get it,” he says in one breath, referring to placement at one of the Army posts in the metropolitan DC area. I turn to face him, and his green eyes lock with my brown eyes. 

“What do you mean?” I ask with a pause between each word, refusing to believe him. My eyebrows furrow and creases appear on my forehead. He reaches across my lap to take my  still shaky hand.

“We’re not staying in DC,” he finishes, “all of the spots were filled.” 

A tornado of emotion ravages my body, ripping through my stomach and churning in my head. Tears turn to screams. “That’s not how this was supposed to be,” I shout, “it’s not fair!” 

The Army doesn’t care I declared I would live my entire life in DC. The Army places physicians based solely on rank, and my husband’s rank is lower than every other soldier who also requested one of the three bases near our current home. 


Scarcity (noun): reliance on missing out or worst-case scenarios


June 2020: Georgetown, TX (near Austin)

I hover outside our home office door. I try to listen to my husband’s phone call with the Army Colonel, the man responsible for placing radiologists at hospitals during the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) process. Our one year old son sleeps in his crib across the hall, and the gentle sound of waves from his sound machine rolls across the loft. My ear presses to the office door.

“Sir, I was told if I filed the paperwork and if the Hospital Chief signed off on the request, we would be able to stay,” my husband states. 

“Well, that’s incorrect,” the Colonel replies, his words falling like boulders. I hear every word through speakerphone and find myself holding my breath.  

“But, Sir,” my husband says, “I’m currently the Chief of the Radiology department, and I only have ten months left in my Army commitment.”

My heart hammers, my hands curl into fists, my breath is shallow.

“Think of your time at Fort Leonard Wood as an opportunity,” the Colonel says with confidence — that as a high ranking officer his words would not be questioned and he would not hear from my husband again — and ends the call.

I whisper-swear, sink to the floor, and slam the carpet outside the office door with my fist. “This isn’t fair!” I whisper-shout as not to wake our sleeping son, “We were supposed to stay!”

We spend the next month filing paperwork, making requests from other colonels, and searching for loopholes. When our realtor hammers the For Sale sign in front of our first family home two weeks later, I look away and wipe tears from my bottom eyelashes.


Scarcity (noun): mental and / or physical inability to open heart or hands


January 2021: Saint Robert, MO (near nowhere)

“When do you want your meal train to start?” my friend, Rebecca, texts me days after my daughter Anne is born. 

We live six houses apart — I am at the top of the hill, and she is at the bottom — and see one another daily. Yet, somehow we still manage to text each other hourly.  With nothing to do in rural Missouri and both of our husbands working at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, our friendship builds the way friendships are constructed in the freshman dorm, forged with both time and proximity. It began with a homemade chicken pot pie the day I moved in.

Our friendship lights from convenience, and the relationship quickly catches flame.

Now, our children play like siblings, and we pray together and swap kids as often as we share recipes. I borrow curry for chicken tikka masala, and she asks me to pick up the parsley she forgot from the grocery store while I’m out. We sing so loudly and dance with such enthusiasm in our living rooms to favorite songs (in KIDZ BOP rendition), our toddlers ask us to stop. I unload Rebecca’s dishwasher, and she bakes my grandmother’s zucchini muffins. Rebecca plans a tea party sprinkle for me, to celebrate my little girl, only three months after we meet. She hosts my family for Christmas when my daughter is one week old, and I arrive with a puffy stomach and tired eyes. She sends me home with leftover Prime Rib. 

Considering Rebecca’s text about when to start the meal train, I answer, “Let’s start in a month, after my parents leave.”

Thanks to her, friends arrive at our door with Asian noodles, chicken piccata, and beef stew. They fold my laundry while I shower and bring books for my older son. They hug me in my spit-up crusted sweats and bring kleenex for all my tears. They listen to my worries about not having enough — time, play, lap space, energy — for both children. They applaud my Instagram deletion after confessing I feel like a terrible mother every time I scroll. They text me laugh-out-loud memes and GIFs about newborn life. They pray with me and embrace the chaos of two children under two years old.

I did not want to move to Saint Robert, MO. But if I didn’t, I see what I would have missed. 


Abundance (noun): ability to move through the world with open eyes, hands, and hearts


October 2022: Hoover, AL (near Birmingham, AL)

After nine hours in the minivan, our family turns into our new neighborhood. I roll down windows to inhale the earthiness of crunched leaves on sidewalks. Trees lining our street spark red, and pumpkins dot nearly every front porch. 

We spent the last week at the beach celebrating my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Traveling and being in person again with family after years of virtual connection is like wearing an old, favorite sweatshirt. But as much as I love being away, when we park in the driveway, I close my eyes and exhale audibly, my lips curling upward into a small smile. I never imagined I would call the South “home”. 

Once my husband completed his U.S. Army commitment, he received a couldn’t-refuse-offer for a fellowship and job in Birmingham, AL. We made the decision about our zipcode for the first time in nearly a decade. Although we had no ties to the area, we said yes to Alabama and named our new home “The Hill”. We prayed for God’s presence and light to fill it, that we would be His light to our new neighbors and friends. 

Animal cracker crumbs and sand granules litter the driveway near our still-packed van and our toddlers run around in freedom after being in their carseats. My husband and I begin to unload sand toys, travel potties, suitcases, and coolers. A car door slam breaks my concentration. I look up to see my friend, Rachel, walking toward our mess. She waves and smiles. 

Our friendship began after my son took snacks from Rachel’s daughter’s bag at the neighborhood pool. They came over for a playdate shortly after the “Snack Swipe Incident”, and  I invited her to Book Club. 

We text often and share recipes, book recommendations, and prayers. I drop s’more brownies on her porch when her daughter is sick. She watches my children during an important doctor appointment after my babysitter cancels last minute. We build our friendship with each text and action.


Abundance (noun): state of generous living


Scarcity feels like a racing heart and shortness of breath; shoulders at my ears and hands pinned to my thighs. Scarcity is the sheet caught around my body tossing in bed, mind unable to stay asleep. Scarcity is hoarding what I have and imagining no more will come. 

But abundance feels like a deep breath, belly and lungs full of air; tingling and loose muscles after a massage. It is a soft blanket wrapping me in security and a fresh mind after a full night’s rest. Abundance is sharing what I have, even when I’m unsure what comes next.

Scarcity is still easier to reach for than abundance. My hands want to clench themselves and hold tightly to not enough. My mind bends to what-ifs. I want to rely on myself. However, our time in the Army teaches me the beauty of opening my hands (and eyes). I cannot search for hidden goodness in the midst of unwanted circumstances when I believe there isn’t enough. I practice releasing preconceived notions and perceived control, letting them evaporate like steam. I am learning the freedom of opening my hand and extending my heart toward another’s, that a giving and connected life will take root, no matter my address. 


“Getting back from vacation is hard,” Rachel says. She reaches out and hands me a warm loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped in a tea towel. “I wanted to make sure you have something to eat for breakfast tomorrow.”

I give Rachel a hug. The sun is beginning to set over the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, visible from the top of our driveway, and soft, golden light covers us — like a promise. 

Alyssa Silvester is a Type A Midwesterner who cares for her people through home-cooked meals and words of affirmation. She lives in Hoover, Alabama—a born Michigander turned Washingtonian turned Southerner through her family’s journey in military medicine—with her husband, toddlers (son and daughter 20 months apart), and two cats. Alyssa loves a good spreadsheet, seasonal decorations and foods, great books, and her Peloton streak. You can connect with her online at her blog, Alyssa’s Writing.


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  1. Elizabeth says:

    Alyssa, this touched my heart so much as I have been struggling lately to not hold onto life with tightly fisted grasps of fear. Such a beautiful reminder of walking in abundance and that I don’t have to have everything all figured out!

  2. Megan Hogg says:

    This was just beautiful, Alyssa! I thoroughly enjoyed your perspective.

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