I am a grandmother who needs some assistance. I have been raising my granddaughter since her mother died due to complications during child birth 18 years ago. She was born premature and has had a lot of health problems and disabilities she has overcome. I have worked my whole life, and my granddaughter has a job as well that helps support us. The problems began when someone did a hit-and-run on my car while it was parked in a parking lot. No one could make out the vehicle or license plate on the cameras. There was a lot of damage, and I had to pay the deductible of $1,000 to get it repaired. That was a huge expense for me, as I live paycheck to paycheck. Then, to top it all off, I sprained my wrist in a fall and had to be off work for a few weeks due to my inability to type or write. Again, co-pays and deductibles. I used up all my vacation and sick days, but still came up short in getting paid for one week. This has caused us to fall behind in two months’ rent and utilities, as I had to use every penny we had to get my car fixed and had no other income. I am finally back at work, but finding it impossible to catch up on everything. In all the years of difficulties in raising my granddaughter, I have never felt as afraid as I do when living on the verge of poverty and eviction. Now I understand what you mean by the pains of poverty.
So many of our fellow creations live precariously on the edge of poverty. Due to low wages and ever-increasing costs of living, the working poor in our country can find it impossible to catch up once they fall behind. Some turn to credit cards or payday loans to get through the short-term shortage; this can be disastrous when they try to pay back the high-interest rate predatory loans. Others will do without food, medications and other daily necessities to try to catch up. Either choice can be very detrimental to their physical and financial health.
I called the grandmother to find out more about their situation. After saying hello and introducing ourselves over the phone, the grandmother nervously laughed as she said: “I thought you were one of the bill collectors calling. How wrong I was.” I told her that is a common worry among those I call. We spoke about the issues affecting our community and the country right now for a few minutes, but knowing that could be an hours-long conversation, I steered our conversation back to her present situation and the difficulties affecting her life.
The grandmother told me some more details about her granddaughter and the multiple disabilities she has overcome over the past 18 years. The grandmother was so proud of her granddaughter and all of her scholastic and physical achievements. She told me how her daughter had not been taking care of her self prenatally during the pregnancy, and not even gone to most of her doctor appointments.
Even after all these years, the grandmother was crying as she recalled that fateful day; the pain of losing a child never leaves you. Then she continued: “I knew right then that I had to be there for my granddaughter.”
I asked about the financial implications of all she had done for her granddaughter over the years. She shared her granddaughter’s father had paid child support over the years, but it had come to an end when she turned 18. She told me how her granddaughter had gotten a job at the age of 15 and worked hard ever since, supporting herself the best she could. The grandmother told me about her job and how long she had worked for the same company. She was receiving a wage that was barely enough to cover shelter, food, utilities and transportation, much less high insurance deductibles and medical co-pays. When she had sprained her wrist, it had been too much for her already stressed budget.
At least that was now behind her, and she was capable of working full-time again. She told me about her job experience and skills, and I felt she could find a better job elsewhere. The grandmother seemed hesitant to even look elsewhere, saying: “I have been with this company for over 15 years. No one will hire me at my age.”
I told her she should try and see what else was available, but also told her about asking her present employer for a raise. I asked the last time she had been reviewed for a raise, and she said it had been several years. I gave her some guidelines in how to ask so she would be successful. With my pep talk, she seemed confident and she promised she would try the next day.
I went over the grandmother’s bills and expenses. She sent me copies of her late notices and other bills. We discussed each one, and I gave advice in how to pay some of them down in a way that would be safe for her budget, as well as tips on how to renegotiate some medical expenses. The bill collectors had been hounding her about her medical bills, so I gave her advice on how to approach them as well, even pointing out several errors and duplicate invoices they were putting on statements. The grandmother was so relieved to have someone go over these bills and statements with her. She confessed she had been living in constant fear of her mail and phone calls and the ever-present fear of homelessness.
After fully reviewing this woman’s budget and making the appropriate changes I had suggested, I could see she would be fine going forward if we brought all her overdue bills up to date. She would be even better in the future if she was able to receive the hoped-for raise. Her rent was reasonable and her utilities were not overly high, as her apartment was newer and more efficient. I told the grandmother my plan of paying off her overdue utilities and rent, along with paying one month ahead for both, to give her a chance to catch up on her other bills, and then I listened as she again began to cry.
She finally said: “I thought I was going to be living like this forever, never able to catch up. I saw no way out, without any light at the end of the tunnel until you called. How can I ever thank you?”
I then took the time to tell her about all of you and your importance to what we achieve together. She was incredulous over your generosity and your caring and sharing for those struggling in our communities. She shared her gratitude with me to share with all of you.
We ended our call with a promise to have several needed items and the checks for her overdue expenses dropped off by a volunteer the following day. This would allow the volunteer to do a quick assessment of their living conditions as well. As I did not have any concerns for their present living conditions, I felt the drop-off by one of our experienced volunteers would be enough to confirm their well being.
Once the volunteer had done her home delivery, I received a report that stated just what my original thoughts were: This grandmother had fallen quickly into poverty due to two unrelated incidents — the unexpected fall and hit-and-run accident. These were now resolved and behind her, so we were all hopeful for this grandmother and the granddaughter’s future as well. When I spoke with the grandmother the last time, she again spoke like the proud grandmother I knew she was, telling me all about her granddaughter’s recent achievements. Then I asked about her achievements in getting a raise. This time I listened as she spoke with pride about herself, sharing with me all the details of how she had asked her employer for a raise and how they had been generous in their response. I told her how proud I was of her, and we both laughed. The grandmother said, “Who would have thought I would have needed a pep talk at my age?” I told her we all need them from time to time. We again laughed at this and ended our call with a prayer of gratitude for all of you and for the positive changes in her life.
Thank you and God bless you for being the instrument of positive change in our communities and our world.
Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease the pains of poverty. We are a little over halfway to matching the Family Foundation $30,000 Matching Grant, which will allow us to continue our good works through these long cold months of winter. This harsh winter has been so hard for so many. Your donations will be used 100 percent to provide poverty relief for children, senior citizens, the handicapped and working-poor families in our communities. Every dollar you donate will be matched by the Family Foundation, doubling your donation and doubling your help that removes the pains of poverty.
Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal