My neighbors were strange. They were old, he was a retired preacher that made me nervous being around him. His wife seemed mousy but we did speak when passing. They knew nothing of my plight raising two children alone and struggling to exist.
The snow on our hill made a cold blanket over my house. The heating oil tank was very low and smelled. The cupboards were bare. Lying in bed that night after feeding the kid’s spaghetti, I whispered, ”God, I need help.” But I didn’t believe he heard me. I was hungry and cold. A break in the sky greeted me but the same desperation remained present. I would make the last oatmeal for my children for breakfast, sweetened with sugar but no milk. After that, I didn’t know what or how. We got up and I put coats on them over their bathrobes for warmth. They played with a child’s innocence to the calamity surrounding us.
There was a knock at the door. Probably a bill collector I thought. But it was my neighbor, I was surprised. He looked shy, then he asked if I could help him out with a favor. “Sure” I said to cover the lack of feeling I felt toward this old preacher.
“We are scheduled to leave for California today to visit our daughter,” he explained. “The meat company called, saying our beef was ready and please come to pick it up. Our freezer is too full to put all this meat in. Would you be offended if I asked if you have room in yours to take this so we can get the new meat? I don’t have time to figure out what else I can do. Do you have enough room in your freezer?”
I laughed inwardly thinking of my totally empty freezer.
“If you have some empty boxes to bring up, Ange and I will help you get it here. Bring the kids up to keep warm while we get it moved. Are you sure you don’t mind helping us out?”
My attitude took a big change toward this man. I got some boxes and the kids, then hiked up the hill. He did have too much meat to add more. We filled four boxes with every kind of cut while his wife attended my children with some hot chocolate and warm buns while she read to them.
With the meat in my freezer, I returned to retrieve my children. More boxes were waiting for me.
Ange said, “Faith all the groceries we have will rot before we get home so please take it with our blessing. It’s so sweet of you to take all this meat off our hands, you just enjoy having it. Your children are adorable and I hope we can see them more. “
Tears welled up in my eyes. I looked at them and said “Thank you, You will never know how much you have helped me. You are an answer to prayer.”
“Well Faith, that’s a nice compliment but we thought it was you helping us by taking all this stuff off our hands. Now we have another favor to ask of you. Will you go help pastor pick up our meat and bring it home. I’ll be glad to keep these children if you will.”
We got in his car and he asked if I minded if we stop by Electric Office and Ashland Heating. I thought he was paying his bills before leaving. After we got the meat loaded and were on the way home he pulled in to Safeway, “ be just a minute,” he said.
After unloading the beef into his freezer, I was getting my kids ready to go home. Pastor and Ange asked if they could pray for me. I was touched to think they would do that for me. They help my hands in theirs and asked that God come and bless me. Then they handed me an envelope, thanks written on the outside.
Inside I saw a voucher for an extravagant amount of food, in my name. Another slip marked paid in full from Ashland Electric, yet another from Ashland Heating for a full tank of oil to be delivered today at my address, paid for.
Tears flooded and my sobs could not be stopped. They both put their arms around me and let the brokenness of my heart release while the love of God fill my empty soul with love.
Pastor softly spoke saying, “Faith, we knew you were having a struggle. We both felt God wanted us to help you. This is a token His love for you. Though we don’t know you well, we admire your efforts to survive and keep this family going. Having been helped ourselves, it is our blessing being passed down to you and your precious children.”
“How can I ever thank you for this? Will you teach me more about God because I now know He heard my prayer and answered me”, I sobbed.
“Our pleasure. How about feeding our cat while we are gone and promising you and the children will come to see us often when we get back.”
“Oh yes, I love you.”
— Polk County Extension Nov 2010 –Four H Information
— Western University 2011 – Short Story on Columbus Day Storm 1962- recently published in book
— Statesman Journal 2010 – Short Essay ‘On Why I Love Oregon’