Friday, December 19, 2014

Fond memories of a very hard time

Just before and just after my first child was born was a very difficult time for me.  I was single, broke, and yes, homeless.  Looking forward from that point, life looked pretty dismal.  A situation thusly described should be considered the beginning of a bad, bad story.  I won't say it wasn't hard because it was.  I was lonely, scared, and hungry. 

I was lonely, but not alone.  Turns out that my best friend's parents let me stay with them.  And I will tell you that I spent some time (ok, a lot of time) feeling sorry for myself....  wallowing in the "poor me" pit of pathetic despair.

With some urging from my friend's family, I considered my options and decided something had to be done.  I started getting food stamps and welfare - after all, I had more than just myself to worry about.  I got my own little apartment (not kidding when I say LITTLE), and I gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.

I had a place to live and I had food.  But things hadn't changed much.  They sound better...  but they weren't...  why?  Because I was still feeling sorry for myself.

And then, strange things starting happening....  these things were unfamiliar to me...  but I later realized that they were blessings...  I truly did not understand blessings at this point in my life.

Looking back from today, I know that these things I later identified as blessing were actually the beginning of my real life.... the beginning of the real me.   I am not sure exactly when it happened...  or even why... but I thank God that it did.    I relate the start of my journey with these new fangled blessings with a tiny portable washing machine.

My best friend's mom (I will refer to her as A), had gotten in touch with a church on my behalf while I was staying with them.  The church members had taken me under their wing and given me a bit of furniture:  a lamp, a chair, maybe a couple other things...  and I thought this was all great.  I didn't really understand or care why they were doing it...  I was just really glad they were. 

As part of this church thing, a young family brought a tiny Hoover washer over to my tiny apartment and explained that their   family had outgrown it, showed me how to use it, and told me that they were praying for me.  Again, I didn't really understand the power of prayer.  After all, that was not how I was raised.

The washer held literally no more than 2 days of my son's clothing in a load but it saved me washing them by hand. 

I washed 2 loads a day, which involved changing the water between wash and rinse, then hanging to dry around the house wherever I could.  I washed baby's clothes first, then used that same wash water to wash some tops, a towel, a sheet, or whatever for me, as needed.  Then I emptied the water, refilled, rinsed baby's clothes, then mine...  day after day, load after load, trying to get all the piled up laundry done.

It was winter and the clothes were drying slowly and stiff (another reason I could only do two loads a day).  I learned, through trial and error, to use less detergent to wash and to rinse twice, which helped A LOT...  but still...  2 loads took 4 hours to wash and FOREVER to dry.  But I didn't have any money so you do what you have to do. 

Baby didn't seem to mind sharing mom's time with this washer but I was getting pretty tired of it after a few days...  even though my other option was to hand wash.  Pretty ungrateful, wasn't I??

I was even considering selling the washer and using the $ to go to the Laundromat.  That stupid washer was noisy, sprayed water if I didn't get it hooked up to faucet exactly right, and took forever!!!  Not fun!!

About a week after getting the washer, there was a knock at the door.  The young family had stopped again.  They asked about the washer - they could see that I was using it and seemed pleased.  Even though the washer was losing its appeal to me, I tried to see why they thought the washer was such a big deal.

Before they left, they asked if I would be offended if they dropped off their tithe each week for a while.  I was almost sure I knew what a tithe was but was thinking they didn't look like they could afford to tithe anything at all.  All I could think about was getting to the Laundromat so I agreed, they gave me an envelope, hugged me, and left.

In the envelope was, indeed, the little family's tithe in cash.  Cool!!!!  I decided that I would accept the tithe for a couple weeks until all my laundry was done (going to the Laundromat, of course) then get them out of my hair.

Then I talked with "A" about the tithe and she explained that if I didn't take it, the family wouldn't keep it, that it would go to the church.  "A" also felt that the family was doing what they thought was the right thing to do.

Each time they came back, I made sure that the washer was being.   At the end of the 2 weeks, all my laundry was done AT THE LAUNDROMAT:  bedding, towels, baby clothes, my clothes, even rugs:   all clean, dry, soft, and put away!!! 

When the little family came for what I thought was the last visit, I told them I was good and didn't need the tithe any longer.  In my mind, I was ready to get rid of that silly washer and be done with the whole thing.

But the family said they felt that God wanted them to continue give me the tithe for 3 months.   I didn't understand.  Didn't they know that I was taking advantage of them?  I was taking their $ to the Laundromat and their little washer was sitting unused until their next visit.  But if I kept accepting the tithe, I couldn't get rid of the washer that was just taking up room in my teeny tiny kitchen. 

Then I got sick.  No Laundromat for me as all extra $ was used for meds for me.  I was back to using the washer for baby's clothes until I had more $. 

Time marched on but something happened....  the Earth shifted or something...  the weather improved, the washing was easier and I no longer minded the work. 

A light went on over my head.  A dim light, but a light.  The bid deal about the washer was that this family did not have much.  Based on their tithe, I knew how much that little family made each week and how tight $ was for them.   I will tell you that I felt guilt.  I didn't feel that I had any right to those funds - they needed them to feed those children.

I began to look forward to the visits of the little family.  I offered something to drink and a snack when they visited.  We chatted about God and blessings and babies and life.  We became friends.  I gave her my baby's outgrown clothing as she had girls but was expecting a boy. 

After the tithing was over, we kept in touch off and on for a few months but, sadly, our friendship wilted.   However, I kept that washer for 2 more years, washing emergency loads now and then but mostly, it served as a talisman for the shift in my view of gifts.  I sold the washer only when $ was needed for car repairs but always felt guilty about keeping the $.

This story was the start of my new life and began my lessons in becoming a real girl...  understanding responsibility.... learning empathy...  and what helping someone does for the person doing the helping.   I never knew that people that helped others actually got "something" out of helping.

I never forgot that little washer and often think about it, and what it meant to me and the little family.  They had given me something that was precious to them and I saw it as a pain in the butt.  I learned empathy.  I learned to be grateful.   I learned about blessings.

To this day, when I get a new washer/dryer, I hold onto the old set until I find a "little family" that needs it.  I have paid forward the little family's blessing of the washer three times so far and will continue to do so as long as I am able. 

I pray that the little family are doing well and hope they know the impact they had on my life.  
And again, I thank A and her family for their help. 

I will NEVER forget how blessed I was even before I realized what a blessing was.  I continue to realize the blessings all around me and its almost painful to consider how empty my life was before my enlightenment.  I thank God every day for my opportunity to be a part of this story and how that little washer changed my life.

Take time to understand the blessings in your life - they are there, we just don't always see them or recognize them for what they are.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

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