A Mom’s Blessing

A Mom’s Blessing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

A Mom’s Blessing

One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!

~George Eliot

In the late 1960s, I was a single mom of four children five years apart in age. My husband was an alcoholic and upon leaving home, told me “I’ll see you living in a slum. The kids won’t know the difference, but I know it will bother you.” I understand he wasn’t in his right mind at the time, but I never forgot those words. Determined never to fulfill his parting wish, I was lucky enough to find a part-time job in a law firm that allowed me to work until the kids came home from school. Needless to say, I lived paycheck to paycheck, struggling to raise the kids in a nice neighborhood. They wore hand-me-downs, but always had a roof over their heads and nourishing food to eat. I could only afford the basics, so I made it a point to be sure that they always had fruit, ice cream and home-baked cakes — there was no money for potato chips, soda or fast food (lucky us!).

I always taught them to respect each other’s personal things. That meant they didn’t take each other’s things, and my pocketbook was also one of my “things” that was off-limits.

Bill was able to have a paper route when he was twelve years old, which he and his eleven-year-old brother Michael shared. They delivered papers seven days a week, worked out the responsibilities and finances (learning to record collections and share profits) together. It was their only way of getting “spending money.” Often when there was a snowstorm, the neighbors would call to see if one of the “boys” could shovel their walk. If, for some reason, the boys were not available, my daughter Debbie would beg me to send her in their place. The first time, our neighbor was so excited, I heard her say with glee, “Honey, this time we’re getting a girl!” Stephen, the youngest, was responsible for taking his grandfather for a walk around the block each day after school. Pop had a stroke and the doctor wanted him to get up and out. Stephen took this responsibility very seriously and would always give Pop whatever he made in kindergarten that day, and then insist they go for their walk.

I could not afford to give them an allowance or even buy school lunches. I packed lunch for the four of them every day — snacks from the outlet store usually came in packages of twelve, which meant divided by four, those snacks were good for three days of packed lunches. I often went to work with just a dime for a phone call, should it become necessary. I really didn’t care — we were in a good school district, unusually healthy and happy.

I thought I was successful in not worrying the kids about money, although apparently they knew it was an issue. Due to the circumstances, I always knew exactly what I had in my purse — to the penny. I had to be careful not to overspend at the grocery store because in those days, cash was the only method of payment — there was no credit card or overdraft protection.

Then came a day when I looked into my purse, knowing I was broke but hoping for a miracle, and finding one. I went from penniless to having four dollars. I couldn’t imagine how I could have forgotten those four dollars. When it happened a second time, I was truly at a loss, until the day I came upon the kids whispering around my pocketbook (where they were not supposed to go). I surreptitiously watched and discovered four sneaky little angels putting their hard-earned money into my wallet. The next day when I made a point of exclaiming about the money, no one said a word. I almost admired their ability to keep the secret as I much as I did their unselfish love.

I often regret not being able to give them more, but it was a blessing in disguise — it somehow made them into confident, responsible and caring adults. I am grateful for the lesson to us all. God balances hardship with blessings. We need only the capacity to recognize them when they arrive.

~Maureen T. Cotter

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