The father of my two children passed away unexpectedly three months ago. We were separated for six months at the time, but had not filed for a divorce yet. He was a good father, and was paying me child support and helping out financially each month. Since his death, I have been struggling with our bills. I was unable to keep up with his car payment, so I had to sell his car for less than he owed. We were sharing a rental home that is too expensive for me to afford on my own, so I am behind in our rent. I do work, but my income is drastically reduced without my husband’s help. I have to pay for more child care now when I work, because my husband and I shared child care duties around our work schedules. He did not have life insurance. Our whole world has been turned upside down. The children are struggling with the loss of their father, and I am grieving the loss of the good man that had once been my husband but had always been a good friend.
As this mother found out, it is never too early to plan for the future. None of us knows what the future holds. I know many people live paycheck to paycheck. Many of the people we help each week are one paycheck away from eviction, utility disconnection and hunger. That is the position this mother and her two children were in when we stepped in to help.
The mother had included her work schedule in her letter, so I used that information to plan my visit. I arrived to find a car in the driveway, so I was hopeful I would find the woman and children at home. The door was answered by a boy who looked to be in his early teens. He asked, “Who are you?” I told him who I was, and asked for his mother. He closed the door, and I heard the lock latch. I listened as the boy shouted, “Mom, there is a man here from The Time is Now.” I heard the mother shout back: “Really? Tell him I will be right there.” The door opened again and the boy stuck his head out and said, “My mom says she will be right here.” The mother walked up behind the boy, and once I showed my identification, she invited me inside.
The mother introduced me to her two sons, careful to not say where I was from. The boy remembered, though, and asked, “What is The Time is Now?” I was thinking of the best way to answer, because I did not know how much she had shared with her children. The mother answered before me though, saying: “It is an organization that helps people when they are having a hard time. We talked about how your dad paid for a lot of our bills before. We need to change how we are living now, and I’m hoping The Time is Now to Help can help us do that.”
The boy seemed to accept that explanation, and he and his much younger brother went to their room to work on homework while the mother and I talked in the kitchen.
I looked around the home that was tidy and very nicely kept. I noticed some spots where it looked like furniture had been, and the mother explained she had sold some items on Craigslist so she could pay off her husband’s car payment and some of his other debts. The mother said: “I didn’t know what to do. When I sold his car, they said I had to pay the remaining balance, too. I also had to pay for his funeral. Selling off my furniture was the only thing I could do in such short notice.”
I asked the mother if she had a budget and would be able to go over her income and expenses with me. She said she would like that, as she needed some guidance in how to afford raising her two sons on her own now.
We sat down at her table — one of the few pieces of furniture left — and she pulled out her bills and budget. We went over these things line by line together. I looked over the lease for their home, and saw they only had two months left on it. I could see the easiest way for them to survive going forward would be to move into an affordable apartment. The utilities and rent were much too high in the home they were in. The woman said she had contacted her landlord and he had agreed to let her out of the lease one month early if she left the home in perfect shape. Then he would give her the security deposit back. She had been looking for rentals, but without being up to date on her present rent and utilities, and not having additional funds for a security deposit and first month’s rent, it would be impossible to ever get into another rental.
I made some suggestions for rentals in the price range I thought she should be looking. I showed her if she moved into a two-bedroom apartment, she would have a balanced budget. The mother looked over all the expenses I had added, and I saw her eyes fill with tears. She finally said: “I have been so overwhelmed. I never thought we would be able to afford to get by without my husband. You have given me hope that I can do this.”
She put her head down on her arm and cried. In a few moments, she lifted her head and wiped away her tears, saying: “I can’t let the boys see me like this. I need to be strong for them. This is good news you have given me. We can do this.”
I asked the mother about her job. She was a nurse and worked three days a week, but for very long hours. This meant she had to have child care for her sons in the mornings before school and after school. She had recently gotten another part-time job while her sons are in school. This would help their budget going forward.
I noticed the woman was making payments on her car. The mother said: “I have been paying my car payments on time, because I need my car for work. If I lose my car, we will be in even worse shape.”
I went outside to look over her car, and was happy to see it was in good condition. The woman said: “My husband always made sure my car was taken care of. He was a good man and a good friend; he just wasn’t a good husband. He liked to go out, and he liked women. I loved him, but I did not like how he lived. We were able to live together as friends and co-parents. I miss him, not as my husband but as my friend.”
That was the first personal information she had shared about her husband and their unusual living arrangements. Now I understood more. She told me many wonderful stories about her husband that made me believe he was a good man and a good friend.
When we returned to the house after looking over the car, the two boys came out from their room once more. I talked to them about school. The mother talked to them about the possibility of moving, and the boys were fine with that idea, as long as they did not have to change schools. I knew a change in schools would be very difficult for these boys after such a painful loss, so I did not want to completely uproot them from their friends and sports they were involved in. I had some ideas of apartments, but the mother stated she could not afford the first month’s rent and security deposit. I realized I had not told the mother what assistance we would be helping them with.
I showed the mother the list of assistance I thought would be most helpful for their future success. She read over the list, and for the second time I saw her eyes fill with tears. She tried to quickly wipe these away before her sons could see them, but her older son noticed. He reached over and grabbed his mother’s hand, and then the younger son leaned in and hugged her. I was moved by their attempt to comfort their mother. She hugged her sons as she cried tears of relief.
When I was getting ready to leave, the older son came to me and thanked me for helping his mother. He said: “I don’t know what The Time Is Now does, but it is the first time I have seen my mom smile in a long time. Thank you.”
That young man’s gratitude is shared with all of you who made this assistance even possible.
The following week, an affordable rental was found and arrangements for payment of their rent and security deposit were made. It was thankfully located in the two boys’ school districts. Gift cards for food, gas and clothing were delivered. These would ease their budget for the following few months to allow the mother to get them back on their feet. This additional help was gratefully received, as the mother stated how expensive it was to feed and clothe two growing boys.
A few pieces of furniture were provided to replace what she had sold. We also brought their utilities up to date at their previous rental to allow her to reinstate service in her name at the new rental. All this assistance gave them the helping hand needed to get back on their feet financially after their devastating and unexpected loss.
As this woman and her two sons are learning to live in a world without their father and friend, they have also discovered there are many in their communities who are willing to help them. This is a lesson they learned, thanks to all of you. While we cannot replace who they lost, we were able to show them they are not alone. There is still goodness in this world.
Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease the pains of poverty in our communities. We are so grateful for all of you and the Family Foundation for their matching grant opportunity, the Family Foundation $30,000 Matching Grant which will allow us to continue our good works through these long cold months of winter. Every dollar you donate will be matched, doubling your donation and doubling your help that removes the pains of poverty.
Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal