By Darlene Moore
I was asked to write a “love story” about my experience working with a particular individual living with financial difficulties that attended Love INC’s budget counseling program now called Budget Boot Camp. I sat down to write this story and found I couldn’t. Did she attend budget counseling? Yes. Did she change her life by learning financial management skills? Yes. Did she face her creditor and pay her debt? You bet she did. Is she on a better footing with her finances years later? I certainly hope so.
But what I can’t write about is how this felt for her. I think I know… but I come from a very different place in life than she does. She’s the only one who can tell her love story in a meaningful and truthful way. Maybe I’ll look her up and see if she’s ready to write that story.
I then thought about my own “love story” as it relates to Love INC and how this all happened for me. That maybe what you need to hear about is what it feels like to be someone who is trying to change this issue of poverty in Whatcom County one person at a time. You might think you already know what this might feel like… just like I think I know how my client felt. You might be wrong. Read on… you might be wrong.
Ten years ago almost to the day I sat down with my husband and asked if he would mind terribly if I quit my job to take care of my mother as her health was declining and my father was having difficulty taking care of her alone. He graciously told me that he supported whatever I felt I needed to do for my family and their well-being. He’s like that. So on November 25th, 1999 I went to spend my first day with mom and for the first time in a long time I held my mother’s hand for most of a day. It became a daily thing for us… holding hands. And I knew that holding my mother’s hand daily brought her much comfort.
I recall one day of holding hands more than the others though. On this day mom looked at our hands and said “whose hand is this?” It kind of threw me for a loop and I said “well…MOM…it’s my hand of course” while I held it up and wiggled my fingers. She gave me her standard “you are so dumb” look and said “I know that’s your hand goofball… but whose hand is holding yours?” It dawned on me that day how advanced my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease was getting. She didn’t even recognize her own hand anymore.
On November 25, 2000 exactly one year to the day from when I started holding my mother’s hand she died, and one day I’ll tell you how she went about bringing Christ to me during that year. But for now you should know there are times at night even now when it’s quiet and dark and I’m thinking of her that I can still feel her hand in mine and it is at those times I realize whose hand that was that she saw that I did not see. She saw that hand because she had Jesus in her heart. I did not. I now realize that mom and I were not alone in this hand holding thing and that what my mother brought to me during this year of hand holding was far greater than what I brought to her…she brought me the Holy Spirit. Think about it… I brought her me…she brought me God. As sick and disabled as she was…she brought me God.
About 3 years after mom’s death I started volunteering as a budget counselor with Love INC. Once again I failed to see Jesus clearly in my life and I arrogantly felt that I had some talent I could use to help others and that Love INC’s budget counseling program needed me. I think Jesus didn’t want it to take me a whole year to get over myself this time so He gave me a client that I couldn’t help. In fact…I think she left in worse shape than when she arrived. I was left questioning whether this was for me or not. I also think I owe her some good budget counseling. Maybe one day that will happen. I see her sometimes in my community.
It was then that I remembered the hand holding and how hard it was to hold my mother’s hand throughout the very toughest of times and how Jesus never backed out when this hand-holding fest was taking place and that if I’m open to it I might see what those living in this thing called “poverty” are bringing to the table from Jesus to me rather than the other way around. After all…that’s how it happened with my mother.
The next client and all the clients I’ve worked with over the past 6 years have all brought something to me that is only rivaled by what my mother brought to me…they bring me passion. I feel passion about this work I’m privileged to do. Once a week or more, I feel genuine excitement about the progress someone else is making in their life and how happy this is making them and my heart just races the day they look at a budget that shows them with certainty that if they meet certain goals and follow their budget that they’ve worked so hard to develop that this can be done and they will know what day this pain will be over. The look in their eyes is priceless and it’s at that moment I know without a doubt that Jesus is in the room doing His work. And I realize that we’re not alone in this hand holding we’re doing here.
I can not tell you how relieved my clients were that for 12 weeks at the very least they are not alone in the pain of poverty. That someone will show up weekly to carry this burden with them, hold their hand and that person does not come alone…she brings Jesus with her. Or better stated…Jesus brings her with Him.
So you think you can’t help someone living in poverty? Maybe not. So why not give them the privilege of doing something for you? Because those living in poverty or simply struggling with finances in Whatcom county are giving away passion these days. And the price? A little three-way hand holding.