Money. That was mrtl’s suggestion for this week’s Monday post, and I’m late as usual, but I do find it a very interesting topic, and it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, what’s on my mind is how difficult it is for some families to make it. I have encountered so many couples and families in the past few years, in which all of the adults are working hard, and they are losing homes, cars, even lives, because they don’t make enough money.
Bankruptcy. When I was a child, that was almost a dirty word. I didn’t know anyone who’d declared bankruptcy, or if I did, they weren’t open about it. Now attorneys compete for bankrupt clients. My office before the one I have now was located in a building owned by an attorney. On the outside, he had hung a huge vinyl banner, urging the general public to declare bankruptcy before the laws changed. Judging by the traffic in his office, his banner was effective. Some people were just waiting for a sign.
About a year ago, I accepted a client who was just released from a psychiatric hospital. She had a history of PTSD; she had suffered most traumas that people in this culture can imagine. And through half a lifetime, she had held it together. Until she and her husband entered bankruptcy proceedings. That was the last straw. She is one of the working poor. She and her husband have “good” jobs, relative to their education levels. They volunteer in the community; they are raising their children well; they are faithful church-goers, and try to live out their faith. The decision to declare bankruptcy did not come easily to them. They find it shameful. The find it morally wrong, although they did choose the option that will maximize payment to their creditors, and allow them at least a chance of keeping their home.
Their story is very common. Many of the people you and I know are one partner’s job loss away from major financial crisis. Because we try to keep up with a culture that’s gone absolutely mad for things and stuff. For houses and vehicles that are way more extravagant than anyone needs, or even truly enjoys. (And how on earth will we heat those houses and drive those monsters in the coming winter?!)
My client and her family were not more careless with money than most. They weren’t Suze Orman, but they weren’t spendthrifts, either. And now they are cut to the bone. Cable and internet are gone. Dinners out are gone. Clothes from anywhere other than Wal-Mart are gone. Vacations, gone. In a formerly middle-class household where two good people go to work every day, and work OT when they can get it.
One of my client’s greatest heartaches through the summer was that her wonderful children didn’t get a vacation. Not even a weekend at the ocean; not even a day at an amusement park, not even a couple of hours at a Firemen’s Carnival. These are the kids who also got nothing for Christmas or their birthdays last year, and said they understood.
At the end of the summer, my client’s husband came home with great news. His employer had given him four tickets to the State Fair! She was so happy! I was so happy! Rain was forecast for the day they were going, and as the day approached, I prayed and prayed for sunshine. Prayers answered, it was a beautiful day.
When my client came in, she told me this story:
We got there, and then we realized that the tickets got us in, but that’s all. We couldn’t ride anything, or play anything. We had brought a little money for hot dogs and drinks. We couldn’t disappoint the kids again, so we took part of that money and bought some ride tickets. We put the kids on one ride, and while they were on it, we stood there trying to figure out what in the world we were going to do. We stood there praying for guidance; I was so discouraged.
Then out of nowhere, these two well-dressed men walked up to us, and they asked us if we would like to have their “ride-all-day” bracelets. They had three of them. We asked them “how much?” but they didn’t want money. They wanted to give them to us. They had come with their church group, which had gotten a discount on bracelets for everyone, but they and one of their friends didn’t want to ride anything, so they just came looking for someone to give them to. It was perfect, because my husband doesn’t like to ride rides.
When the kids got off their ride, they couldn’t believe it. They were so happy! We had thought we’d get to put them on one more ride — they were mostly four or five tickets each! — but we stayed all day, from noon ’til about 7 o’clock. When we were ready to leave, my husband reminded me that he had 20 ride tickets left. I said to my daughter, “Let’s pray and ask God to show us who to give these tickets to.” We looked at everyone we passed as we went toward the exit. Finally I saw this young mother with a baby in a stroller, and a toddler, and a pre-schooler, waiting in line for tickets. She was looking in her purse like she was trying to come up with just a little more money. I walked up to her and said, “These are for you.” She looked at the tickets, and looked at me, and she burst into tears, and hugged me. I knew I had found the right person for those tickets.
It was just a day at the fair. My client needed a day out; but even more than that, she needed hope, and assurance that she’ll find a way, that if she does what she needs to do, God will make a way. That’s what she believes.
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