Last year was the poorest I’ve ever been, in my life. Before that Paul and myself had juggled our money, bought mainly reduced food, went to jumble sales and coped, but it all came to a head last year.
One day I was at work, I had just arrived and tried to be my usual jolly self, we always have handovers for the morning workers to pass on to the evening workers, as I sat waiting for the handover to start a colleague sitting next to me quietly said, “Are you alright?” I replied in a jolly tone, “Yes,” I really didn’t want to talk, I just wanted to be very quiet and still, but on reflection I should have said more, for I never say just one word. Stefan asked me again, “You alright?” I replied again, in a jolly tone, “Yes.” But strangely a minute later he asked me, “Are you alright? I replied, “You’ve asked me that three times now.” He just looked at me.....
Straight after the handover, Stefan said to me quietly, “I want to speak to you now in private,” with everyone still seated, I followed him into an empty room, I didn’t know what he was going to say, then he said to me, “What that matter?” I didn’t know what to say, I looked at the floor, many thoughts raced through my mind, Stefan said, “Is Neil bullying you?” For all knew that Neil and I didn’t get on, at all! I still couldn’t speak, I bit my lip to contain myself, and then a tear fell down my face, Stefan said, “If you don’t want to tell me .... you don’t have to,” I said in a whisper, “We have no money,” and then tears poured down my face. I know he has been broke in the past too he said, “What can I do today to help you?” I said, “Paul has no fags, it is difficult with him at home, if he had the two small packs of roll ups they cost £2.99 each, he would be OK, I don’t need anything.” Stefan said, “I’m about to finish work, I will go to the corner shop and buy Paul the two packs of roll ups, it will be loan to you, I want the money back at pay day.”
Stefan said, “When I come back into the car park, I will phone you, to come and get it, OK” I replied, “Thank you SO much,” he added, “Tomorrow is my day off, you’re at work, I will come in and sit with you and look at all that you are spending and see how I can help you,” I dried my tears and we left the room, we went back into the office where the evening workers were still there seated.
Stefan rang me from the car park, I went down to meet him there, he gave me a small white paper bag he said, “I’m giving you this, I don’t want it back when you get paid, I thanked him again and he left. I looked in the little bag and tears again came to my eyes, for inside was two packs of roll ups for Paul, two bars of chocolates for the kids and for me a tin of Heinz tomato soup for me! About two months before he had a tin of shop brand soup he said to me it was, “Lovely,” I’d said, “I only like Heinz tomato soup, but it’s SO expensive I never buy it, so I buy no soup at all” so there in the car park I cried some more I could see the sticker on the tin 99p. I was very moved by his kindness and generosity. I put the treasured items in my car and rang Paul and asked him to come to work, that I had cigarettes for him, from Stefan. He quickly came over, I met him in the car park he said, “Please thank Stefan for me, he is a gentleman,” I told him “I will.”
I went back into the office there was only one colleague in, it was Tony a lovely man he said, “I don’t mean to pry, I can see that you are sad, are you OK?” I knew he’d understand as he too has been broke in the past, and I knew they had all seen me leave and talk to Stefan I said, “I’m skint, I have no money,” his face was full of compassion, I went and sat at my desk then he quickly came and stood next to me and said, “Here is £40 I want you to have it, it is a loan I need it back at pay day,” I said to Tony, “I can’t take you money you need it”! He insisted, “Please take it, I want you to have it, give it me back when we get paid,” I thanked him for his kindness.
He left the office then Poppy walked in, she said, “You OK Jen?” Has Neil been horrible to you again? You should report him! What’s wrong, I can see you’ve been crying, this is not like you,” I replied, “We have no money” and before I could say another word, she came over to me and said, “Here is £40 I do not want it back! This is confidential between you and me,” I said to Poppy, “There is really no need, I am OK,” she looked at me with those stern, steely eyes, and said, “I want you to have it, I don’t want it back, quick put it away before someone comes in,” I asked if I could hug her, and there in the office we hugged.
My spirit that was SO sad, that I’d tried to hide it from my co-workers, but Stefan saw through it, yet I still don’t know how, for I’d tried to be cheerful but there must have been something about my demeanour, that spoke volumes’ to him, I went home uplifted that day. Paul and Daniel was at home and I told them all that had happened, then I added, “Do you think if I was a nasty, back stabbing person at work, that these three colleagues would have done all this for me?” In unison they shook their heads. I said, “No, what has happened today show my character at work at all times, what a testimony.”
The following day, as promised, Stefan came in on his day off! Wow! That still gets to me and we went into an empty room we sat down, he asked me, “Tell me everything you spend your money on,” and as I named all my direct debits, he wrote them down with the amounts next to them. When he looked at the finished list he said to me, “Your Virgin Media is £60 a month!” I said, “It’s crept up over the years,” he said, “Ring them up tomorrow and tell them you want to be free view,” I told him, “I will,” he suggested I go to Citizen Advice Bureau, I said, “We will,” he replied, “They will help you a lot, they helped me.” He stayed for about thirty minutes and then he left, I thanked him.
About two weeks before this while at work another work colleague called Ford, strange name I know, I never met another one and I know you haven’t either, he’d been to the corner shop on his return he said to me, “I’ve bought myself a scratch card and one for you too,” I said to him, “I don’t know what to do, I’ve never had one before,” he told me what to do and I won £2! Ford said, “They cost a pound each, you can either buy another one or buy something in the shop,” I told him we have no bread or milk at home so I’ll going and buy that now.” I went to the corner shop and bought bread and milk, I was thrilled for we’d used the last bit that morning, what fantastic timing, I didn’t see it as a coincidence, I saw it as an answer to prayer. I thanked Ford again, he replied, “No problem.”
I had arranged months ago to meet one of my dearest friends, we go back a long way and of all my lovely friends she is just one of two who can read me like a book. I had £3 to my name, she had recently moved far away and as it was SO far we had arranged to meet half way for both of us at McDonalds, I had enough petrol in my car so I knew I was sorted for £3 would be just about enough to get me a drink and a burger. I only had this amount for it was owed me at work and my Manager had eventually given it back to me from petty cash.
Jo and I had a fantastic time we sat in the corner and laughed and giggled, we caught up on each other’s families, and it was great to meet up, we talked about our various aches and pains on our bodies, we’d been there just over three hours, soon it was time to go then for some reason she said to me, looking me in the eyes, “How are YOU?” Oh dear, I KNEW how I was, and as I opened my mouth to speak, tears came down my face, “Skint, we are struggling,” I had desperately tried to hide my pain and was convinced I had, she took her purse and took out every penny she had in it, totalled £8.50, she told me, “If I’d known I would have brought more and paid for your meal,” I told her, “There is no need, we are going to the Citizen Advice Bureau, they will help us,” Jo insisted I take her money, and I knew it was futile not to accept it. I dried my tears on my paper napkin and as always with Jo she prayed for me before we left the table, with her nice, quiet, meaningful, loving, sincere words as we left we hugged and she said, “I will pray that everything will turn around for the best,” I gave her a weak smile and thanked her, then we drove off in opposite directions.
There are two invisible groups at work the skint group and the non-skint group! When we are working in twos sometimes the skint person confides with the other skint person, so it’s not always common knowledge to the non-skint group. The non-skint group buy their food from Marks & Spencer’s or Waitrose! The skint group buys their food Home Bargins, Aldi or the reduced sections of the supermarkets.
A lovely person I work with, Jaz I would put her in the non-skint group, but she isn’t wealthy, she told me about a benefit Paul could have, I was doubtful he would get it, as I work, she told me, “I get it and I work. Jaz then wrote down all the details I would need to make it easy for me, she said to me, “Phone them you got nothing to lose, I’m confident Paul will get it.” I did tell Paul about it, he hadn’t heard of that particular benefit either. I didn’t phone I was in no mood for form filling!
The morning of the Citizen Advice Bureau we got there for 8am and we were 3rd in the queue before they opened at 9am there was 25 people behind us! We followed Jessie to her small office and we ended up been with her for many hours, she rang her supervisor half way through to say, “I have to finish this job today,” her supervisor said “OK!” She was thorough and was shocked at all the loose ends that we had, she too went through all our bills and rang the bank on our behalf for the exact amount on our direct debits, she told us about the same benefit that Jaz had told me about and asked if Paul got this benefit, I told her, “No a work colleague had told me about it and given me the contact number but I’d not done anything as the thoughts of more forms to fill in was too much for me.” Jessie rang them and they told her they would post a form out to Paul today, he was to fill it in then he would also have a day when they would meet him and have an assessment meeting. Jessie told us, “I am confident you will get this benefit, promise me you will fill it in when it arrives.” We promised her we would; I felt 1% hopeful that Paul would get this benefit, it would help us a lot, but I didn’t pass on my negative thoughts to Paul. We got a lot done with our time with Jessie, what an amazing volunteer. As we left Jessie said, “You’re the longest time I have ever spent with anyone, ever.”
The benefit form arrived three days later, it wasn’t as daunting as we had thought, and Paul filled it in, at the end there was a large space for the Partner to write what they wanted, if they chose, so I wrote my part I was honest, no point pussyfooting around, it was free post I’d left it for Paul to post.
A date eventually arrived for Paul to go and be assessed, he wanted me to go with him, so I was allowed to have some time from work, questions was asked, we were both in the meeting, Paul was asked if he wanted me there, he did. The Assessor said, “It will take a few weeks, for you to know if you have been successful or not.” A few weeks later a letter arrived, Paul doesn’t like opening any letters to him, so I opened it and it said, “Paul had not been successful,” my inkling was right, I told Jaz when I saw her, she was, “Very surprised.”
I had a phone call from my Vicar one day, she said, “I’ve had an email from Julia who used to attend our fellowship, in it she mentions a phone call she had with her friend Jo, who I believe you know, she mentions you are in hardship, can we meet up and have a chat?” I did meet with the Vicar, we chatted for about two hours, I was sad, she was lovely, she said, “We won’t be able to help you with your finance, but we will pay for any counselling for you and Paul to help with your debts, up to eight sessions.” Vicar Sal asked me, “Would you be interested in that?” I was a tad sad but what did I expect? We had got ourselves into this mess, I said, “I’d speak to Paul about it and see what he says (personally I couldn’t see him going) Vicar Sal said, “I will get the details to you,” then she prayed a lovely prayer over me, and we went home.
The following day I had a phone call from Lian who works at the counselling services, she asked me, “When would you like to start your sessions? She said, “Your place of worship will be paying for all eight meetings,” I replied, “I’ll let you know.” Lian did phone twice more but my replies were the same.
I usually arrive just in time at my Place of Worship, one minute before it starts and I’m one of the first to leave, one morning, soon after meeting with Vicar Sal I was rushing out as usual when I heard someone call my name, I turned around and it was Vicar Sal, she said, “I tried to get you last week but you left so quickly, she put an envelope in my hand with my name on I thanked her and went to the supermarket, I could feel it was a card of some description, later on at home I remembered the envelope in my bag, I opened it assuming it was the counselling services info she had promised me, but to my surprise it was a card saying, “Praying for you”, with £40 in! Wow! I didn’t expect that! It came at just the right time, cat food, bread, milk, cheese, margarine, soap..... that money went a long, long way. I rang Vicar Sal and I thanked her, very much. This has just reminded me of two incidents I had in my local supermarket, on another occasion, I had £5 to my name and needed £10 worth of shopping, everything in my shopping basket was reduced, but I also needed items that wasn’t in the reduced section, feeling lost and alone in the large store, and feeling very sorry for myself, there in front of me on a very wide section of the floor for all to see, was a £5 note! I picked it up and was able to do my shopping. And on a different day in the same store just as I was going to the till with my £5 worth of shopping at the side of the ice cream counters to the left was a £5! I was overjoyed, both times I thanked God. He never fails.
Then six weeks after the first letter came to Paul another one came addressed to him, it was from the benefit people, I was nervous to open it......