by Paul St. John
In July 2003, I hit what I thought was my lowest point. I hadn’t been able to find a good-paying job in the film industry for many months, and finally had to settle for a costume warehouse job with a weekly take-home check of $547.39. If I had only myself to support, I could manage — but I have a wife, five children and two mortgages.
We had maxed out our credit cards buying groceries and gas, spent our savings, even used our children’s savings accounts — and were still two months behind on our first mortgage and one on our second. I admit thinking that if I died, at least the insurance money would pay off our debts.
We had eaten the last of our pasta and rice, and cooked the last meat from the freezer. Except for a couple cans of corned beef and a few eggs, we had no food. With my third paycheck I planned to buy a 50-pound bag of rice and some eggs to get us by for a while. If I could save $500 a week, I’d be able to pay at least one month of the first mortgage.
An hour after I got that paycheck, my wife called to say our water had been turned off. I called the Water Department asking to pay $50 a week until the full amount was paid. They said no. We had to pay the full amount plus a $50 reconnect fee. Now my paycheck was just over $200.
Tess, one of my coworkers, noticed I wasn’t in my usual good mood and asked about it. I told her everything — about running out of food, facing losing our house, having the water shut off, and being unable to afford anything for my son’s birthday a few days later. She gave me a hug and told me to keep believing that all will turn out for the better.
In the parking lot the next day, Tess handed me an envelope that she said was from her boyfriend, Rob. I asked what it was, and s
he said “I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me.” Once inside the warehouse, I opened it. Inside was another envelope with a note, “Paul, I was a dad too. No returns. Rob”. That envelope contained $350 in cash.
“I can’t accept this,” I thought. “I’ve never even met Rob.” Yet I knew that I couldn’t return the money. You see, Rob and Tess are having a hard time also. The film industry is in a depression, and Rob is only able to find work about five days a month. Even so, they opened their hearts and wallet to us.
Between my tax rebate, my paycheck and Rob’s gift, I was able to pay another month of the mortgage. I don’t know what will happen next, but I’ll try to do what Tess advised and keep believing.
Thank you, Rob and Tess. You are shining beacons of kindness.