Just these three

By Ellen Russell

It’s a misty morning in the mountains as I drive into town.  Can’t help but be impressed with the surrounding beauty as I pass green pastures and shrouded peaks.  Like most folks, I think of the day that lies ahead.  I whisper a prayer that all will go well.

Once at my desk with coffee in hand, I pick up a file to review the information — months of client history to bring me up-to-date.  I walk to the reception room door and call out the name, “Ginger?”  A tall, messy-looking blond swings a tiny, shoeless child up to her shoulder and shuffles across the room.

“Have a seat,” I welcome her to my tiny office.  Here the file becomes reality.  Ginger and her wide-eyed little girl are truly in crisis.  They have spent the night in their car fleeing an abusive ex-boyfriend who is being released from prison.  I no longer need the aid of my coffee to awaken my drowsy mind.  The urgency of Ginger’s situation protecting herself and her precious child has my full attention.

She explains the details  — her restraining order, parents’ rejection, no access at the shelter because children are not accepted there.  The cards are stacked against her.  I dispense some much needed snacks to the hungry toddler, and tissues to the weeping mom, clearly overcome with fear and frustration.  After a few words of reassurance, her defenses melt replaced by a growing sense of  trust and encouragement.

After multiple phone calls to nearby shelters which do permit children, then gathering some clothing and a pair of size 8 sandals for the sweet, smiling child, we send Ginger out with a plan of safety and new beginnings.  Tearfully, she expresses her gratefulness as the little girl smiles and blows kisses “good-bye”.

Shortly thereafter, I speak with a well-dressed man named Dennis, who finds himself jobless for the first time in his life of 42 years.  Embarrassed and ashamed, his saving exhausted and still unemployed, he breaks down in tears.  We approve him for a shopping cart of groceries and school clothes for his two teen boys.  I give him papers on resources that may create a new career path.  His face brightens.  I remind him that we can continue to help until he is back on his feet, and that we understand how difficult it is for him to seek help.  He offers his thanks and departs.

I take several deep breaths and a slug of my cold coffee, then re-enter the reception area, which is now overflowing with anxious faces.  Betty Sue, a familiar client is my next interview.  A pleasant, widowed lady, she has been battling cancer for nearly two years.  Her treatment is going well, but her meds and monthly expenses far exceed her meager earnings as a part-time cleaning person in a local motel.  Her broad smile belies her heavy emotional burdens.  Quickly, I fill out her application and send her to receive a grocery cart of staples and a fan to get her through the hot weather.  We pray together, and she thanks me again and again for our help.  Betty Sue has pledged to become a volunteer here, once she reaches remission.

I lean back in my chair digesting the scenarios I’ve heard.  “Just these three,” I say in my heart.  Today, I’m grateful for the resources to help just these three.  Some who seek help do not qualify or did not bring the necessary paperwork to prove their current status.  Then, I have the difficult task of turning them away.  I work a short time in the pantry shelving canned goods before heading home.  I exit this unassuming, red brick building in the center of town — Haywood Christian Ministry, where we daily offer desperately needed resources to folks in crisis.  You may not know that our life-sustaining services assist nearly 25 percent of our Haywood County population.  We rely on the generosity of folks who, because they are blessed, choose to give others a path out of despair.

Often the faces and stories of the folks we help capture my thoughts long after I’ve left.  But for the grace of God, there go you or I.  This work is so important because each life matters, and each family deserves an opportunity for economic improvement and independence.

Haywood Christian Ministry holds its Annual Golf Classic, Banquet and Auction on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 26  and 27 at Laurel Ridge Country Club and Waynesville Inn Resort.  Please call HCM at 456-4838 for details, and to see how you might contribute, in any way you choose, to help us help our neighbors in need. Together we can make a difference!