I know hard times. I’ve had my car repossessed, bill collectors harassing, 16 cents in my checking account — when it wasn’t overdrafted. I’ve been so broke I couldn’t afford to pay the $4.25 to get my car out of the Metro parking lot and had to sign a promissory note to take my humiliated tail home. Twice. I even got a call from Tween Girls’ school one time telling me I needed to pick her up because I was too behind in tuition for her to stay.
I’ve also been to eviction court more times than even I care to admit. I’ve never been put out (pausing to thank the Lord), but I totally understand Destiny Mathis’ desperation. My fellow single mother of three small kids is hawking a handwritten letter from President Obama for $11,000 in order to pay her overdue rent and avoid being put out of her Indiana apartment.
The irony? His message is a note of encouragement after she expressed worry about her ability to care for her family.
Mathis lost her job six months ago as a surgical technologist, watched her boyfriend walk out on her, and as things go, found herself scraping to make ends meet and keep up with her day-to-day expenses as the sole breadwinner for her household. We all know kids are cute but them little dudes are money guzzlers, so between a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler, she needs a heap of cash just to feed, clothe, and diaper them, much less buy groceries for herself.
Heck, even looking for a job is pricey. You need the Internet. You need gas to go to interviews and pay for parking once you get there (which, by the way, is ridiculously expensive). Everything costs money. And nothing brings that to your attention more than when you don’t have it.
I feel for Destiny. I really do. It’s not that I don’t believe in my president’s ability to turn circumstances around for the millions of financially struggling un- and underemployed people who are afraid to answer the phone every time they see an 800 number on their caller ID, not because they don’t want to pay their bills, but because they can’t. There’s a universe-sized gulf of difference between living beyond your means and living paycheck-to-paycheck — or trying to live on no paycheck at all.
And might I offer up a hearty snicker at unemployment, which is a joke. I just so happened to get sucked into that period a year or so ago when the government halted all unemployment payouts, so for a time I was bringing nothing in. I think I used to get $341 a week when my rent alone was $905, not including electricity. (Cable and a house phone were luxuries I let go a long time ago.) Who can survive on that amount of money?
You’re surfing Monster, you’re cruising the classifieds, you’re swallowing your pride to do a little networking by letting people know you’re looking for a job and ask if they know of anything, and the good people at unemployment are standing behind you with a stopwatch to your ear letting you know that time’s running short. Pressure? Nah, that’s not pressure at all. I’m sure Destiny’s sleeping just fine at night.
Despite her reason for initially writing the President, I can only imagine the excitement she felt when she saw he had personally responded to her. I’m screaming inside at the thought of it. I love me some Barack Obama. But I can also imagine the anguish and last-ditch desperation she must’ve felt when she made the decision to give that letter up in favor of keeping a roof over her and her children’s heads. It’s really so sad. Desperate times call for desperate measures but it doesn’t make the process of giving up that treasured thing any easier.
Still, ain’t nothing greater than being able to know that your family is safe, taken care of, and fed. Sometimes that’s all you can do as a mom, especially when your kids are too young to start every other sentence with “Mom, can I get ...” or “Mommy, I want ...” Right now, she just needs to worry about covering the basics. Hopefully, the letter will sell and she can breathe easy until she gets the golden call about a new job. I’m sure President Obama would want her to do what she had to do.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make to get through a rough patch?
Image via Muffet/Flickr