My daughter was born with some facial malformations that have affected her health and her appearance. Over the past 14 years of her life, she has undergone multiple surgeries to correct her jaw and mouth defects that have affected her eating and breathing and her appearance. These surgeries and constant medical care have not allowed me to have a career other than a part-time job. Now that my daughter is a teenager, she is much more sensitive to the stares and comments made about her appearance. I have always taught her to be strong, but it has become harder for her recently. Children her age can be cruel, so I am now homeschooling her. My daughter’s father could not handle the stress of the constant medical care, so he left when our daughter was two. He was always good about paying his child support, and provided health insurance, which has helped us all these years, but he was never a part of her life. Sadly, her father unexpectedly died two months ago from a heart attack. He had not made plans for his daughter, so we are now left without the child support we relied on. I have tried to work more than part-time, but I do not want to leave my daughter home alone, and I cannot afford to pay someone to watch her. I just applied for housing assistance, utility assistance and food stamps, but other than the food stamps, we will have to wait several months for the other assistance to be hopefully approved. I am willing to move to a more affordable apartment, but I cannot afford both first month’s rent and a security deposit on our small income. I also am at risk of losing my car, since I cannot make this month’s car payment. It is almost paid off, and it would be terrible to lose it now, as I need transportation for both my job and my daughter’s medical care.
I made arrangements to visit this mother and daughter after visiting several people who were in more of an emergency situation. When we read the letters asking our assistance, we do not just sort them by the date received, but also the level of need. People on the verge of eviction or suffering due to hunger or living in dangerous conditions are given our attention first. Since this mother did not indicate they were about to be evicted or were suffering due to hunger, they would be my third visit for the day. When I arrived at their apartment, I took a moment in my car before going to the door to say some prayers and to ease the stress from the day’s previous visits.
I knocked on the door, and in a moment, it was opened by the mother. After showing my identification and introducing myself, she invited me inside. She called to her daughter, who I could see was sitting at a desk in front of a tiny computer screen. The mother asked her daughter to come meet me, but I saw the hesitancy. The mother asked her a second time, so the girl came into the room reluctantly, but would not make eye contact.
I noticed the facial deformities, but they were much less severe than I had seen in the past. I was fairly certain this was due to the many surgeries she had already undergone. The girl spoke with some difficulty, and it became clear she was struggling with more than just the visible part of the malformation.
When I first began The Time is Now to Help, I worked with a day care facility for children and young adults with severe physical deformities and handicaps. These children not only lived in extreme poverty, but also struggled with breathing, eating, speech and mobility. They did not even have proper support wheelchairs, hygiene products or warm clothing in the winter. I learned a lot about what the handicapped go through, and the strength of the human spirit, from those children. I would put that knowledge to good use with this girl.
The girl asked her mother if she could go back to her school work, and seemed relieved when she gave her permission. The mother apologized for her daughter’s behavior, but I assured her it was to be expected, I was a stranger who showed up at their apartment unannounced, and she had to endure an awkward introduction when she already was self-conscious of her appearance.
The mother showed me around their apartment, and I found it to be clean and cared for. The mother was aware of our column, so she offered to show me the refrigerator and cabinets. I noticed there was some food. She pointed out the food she had gotten from the food pantry the previous week, sharing it had been her first time there. The mother stated: “It had been a much better experience than I had thought. I was treated kindly, and once I got over my embarrassment, I was just happy to get the good food they gave us.”
I asked the mother some more details about her daughter’s father and the arrangement they had. Her daughter’s father had been good about paying a generous child support each month, but had not purchased a life insurance policy or made any other provisions for her in the event of his death. The mother said: “He just never thought he would die. He always lived each day to the fullest, until it caught up with him.”
She admitted they had never been married, and once her daughter was born, he did not want any part of raising a child, much less one with special needs. The mother showed me pictures of her daughter as a young child and then after her many surgeries. I could see the slight improvement with each surgery, but the main improvements were in her ability to breathe and eat properly. Her speech improved with years of therapy. The mother began to cry while looking through the photos, saying, “To me she has always been beautiful; the surgeries were so she could survive.”
We began to discuss her financial situation. We went over the bills she paid each month and the small amount she earned from taking care of two children for a family four days a week. She was able to bring her daughter with, so she did not need to have child care for her. The mother did need her car for this job, and for the many medical visits she had for her daughter in Milwaukee. I noted the overdue car payment and began my list of assistance with paying off her car loan, as there were only four payments left. This assistance alone would help them greatly each month.
I also added paying her overdue rent and the upcoming month to allow her time to find a new apartment without risking eviction. We discussed some apartment possibilities, and with reviewing her budget, I made some suggestions for more reasonable rent. My goal was to have them able to sustain even if her housing was not approved or available for the next year or longer. I also handed the mother some gift cards for food and toiletries.
When we were finishing our conversation, the daughter walked into the room. She looked like she had something she wanted to ask me, so I said, “Would you like to sit and talk with us?” Again, the girl looked away as if trying to hide her face from me. I said: “Please sit. I want to hear about your home schooling.”
With the mother’s coaxing, she finally sat down next to her, but looked down at her lap. The mother finally said, “Why don’t you look up so I can see your pretty face?” The girl answered angrily: “Mom, don’t say that. You know it’s not true.”
I saw how these words hurt the mother, but I also knew they hurt the girl, too. The negative thoughts and words were not helping the girl become positive and confident.
I said: “I agree with your mother. We are all gifts from God, and as such, we are all beautiful in his sight. Your mother sees you as a gift from God, and so do I.”
The girl looked like she was going to cry now, but finally said: “The kids at school called me horrible names and told me I was ugly. I will never go back there.”
We talked for a while about the bullying, and how they tried to deal with it. After speaking with the mother and daughter, I could see for now the homeschooling was the best choice until they moved. The daughter did say she wanted to try going back to school, if they could move to a different school district. We discussed that and the mother’s eventual return to full-time work when that happened. We also talked about the daughter’s continuing health problems due to the facial malformations. She would have to endure more surgery in the coming years as her face continued to grow, so a move closer to her health care would help them as well.
Since it was late in the day and the mother and daughter were obviously tired, I went over my final notes for assistance. The mother would keep in touch with me in her search for a reasonable rental. She was also going to look in a different school district in hopes that fresh start would help her daughter not encounter the same bullies she had encountered in her present school district. I told her a volunteer would be dropping off her rent checks and the final payments for her car loan. I told them: “I do not do all this alone. There are many generous donors and hardworking volunteers that make our assistance possible.”
The mother and daughter both thanked all of us for our caring assistance.
The following month, the mother found a new apartment that was in a different school district and much closer to her daughter’s medical care. She also had already been looking into jobs in that area, and had interviews set up for once her daughter started school. These changes, in addition to the lower rent, first month’s rent and security deposit, and car loan paid off, have allowed this mother and daughter to make a fresh start.
We pray the daughter receives compassion, friendship and acceptance in her new school. Life is not always easy for any of us, but sometimes a helping hand is what you need to guide you through. We have been that helping hand for this mother and daughter and for many other fellow creations this past month.
Thank you to our wonderful volunteers and all of you for making our good works possible.
Every day we receive requests for our assistance. In many communities there is no or little assistance for those living in the pains of poverty. People of every age are suffering in silence as they live without proper shelter, food, utilities and other daily necessities. Thank you and God bless you for all we accomplish together to ease these pains of poverty.
Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal
Please help: There are many coming to us in desperation. Our good fellow creations need our compassion. Together we make a big difference. Make checks payable to: The Time Is Now to Help, P.O. Box 1, Lake Geneva, WI 53147. The Time Is Now to Help is a federally recognized 501©3 charitable organization licensed in the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. You will receive a tax deductible, itemized thank you receipt showing how your donation provided assistance for the poverty stricken.
A very special thank you: Rhoades Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, Paul Ziegler, Ziegler Charitable Foundation, Kunes Country Auto Group, James and Lynne Newman Foundation, Lake Geneva Area Realty, Barnabas Donors, William Wright, The Sowers House, Michael Glass, Marvin and Audrey Hersko, George and Lauretta Clettenberg, Joseph and Sharon Jardas, Beth and Jody Rendall, Judy Dishneau, Badger Hardwoods of Wisconsin, Tim and Laura Kolnik, Saints Simeon and Anna Anglican Church, Denise Hubbard, Elaine Goode, Dorothy Tookey, Gene and Janet Krauklis, Stanley Roelker, Jorge Quero, Donald and Anne Ogne, and Robert and Mary Winter.
Memorials: Sally Rayner in memory of her husband Lawrence Rayner Jr. Mary Anne Matula in memory of Paul A. Matula.
Prayer chain: The power of prayer and positive thoughts comes from the true healer, our Lord answering our prayers. Please pray for healing for the following people: Talyn, Mike, Susan, Sylvia, Richard, Jennifer, Jayden, Maria C., Alex, Lily, Kaitlyn, Sheila, Rhonda, Deda Lee, Marilyn, Helen, Dennis, Mary, Joseph, Sal, Jordan, Jean, Tom L., Arabelle J., Dr. Peter, Alyce and Matthew.
Furniture donations: To donate furniture please call Love, Inc. (262) 763-2743.
Please visit: www.timeisnowtohelp.org