This month’s neighbor story is written by a brand-new GraceWorker, who recently started as a volunteer to listen to people’s stories and determine how GraceWorks can help them.
Jean struck me as someone I might find myself sitting next to at church or meet at a dinner at my in-laws.
Jean (not her real name) was kind, humble, and so grateful for any help we could provide her. She simply wanted some help with food for herself. Her husband had left her, and since then she has been struggling paycheck to paycheck cleaning houses.
She confided to me that she had recently been having problems with anxiety and asked if I would pray for her. She described crippling panic attacks that came on without warning and without a clear cause. She has to think twice about driving on the highway now. What if she couldn’t pull over?
She started Zoloft three weeks prior but hadn’t felt any relief yet. She showed me the locket she kept around her neck with one of the supplementary fast-acting pills. Jean had considered taking that pill while in our waiting room since she was feeling anxious about needing to seek help.
I smiled a bit and told her I had just been to the doctor that very morning, only a couple hours before, for my six-week check-in. I was taking the exact same medication for anxiety, and I had already started seeing the light on the other end of the tunnel. She was right in the middle of it and worried it wouldn’t help her.
We confided in one another about how our anxiety manifested, and how it is hard to understand since there was nothing in particular that caused it. Life was good and seemingly we should feel fine. We both had been apprehensive about starting on any medication out of fear of losing ourselves.
In that moment I was struck by a sense of shared humanity. I have no doubt God put Jean in front of me that day. I pray that I was of encouragement to her. What a blessing to be able to walk alongside a neighbor and offer some hope.
As I helped her load her groceries I noticed some gardening tools. She was excited about some tomatoes she had just planted. I had just started some last week I told her. We said our goodbyes and I sent her on her way. I hope to see her again, but then again, if we do our jobs right our neighbors won’t need GraceWorks anymore.
I am honored and blessed to be able to work as a GraceWorker. GraceWorks’ mission statement is “Neighbor serving Neighbor by the power of God’s grace,” which I think is perfect for this work. It very well could be me sitting on the other side of the table. So many people live on a knife’s edge balancing their bills, their jobs, and their family.
It only takes one event to send a whole family spiraling into poverty. Something as simple as a flat tire or a child needing to stay home from school. Medical insurance isn’t offered at your part-time job, and your hours were just cut. Medical bills pile up and you look for any help you can. Maybe a payday loan just this once. But what about next month?
You find yourself facing eviction, choosing whether to get your car fixed or pay rent. Maybe you could keep your job and live out of your car for a little while? You can’t sleep well in a car and so you’re late for work again and lose your job. Now you’re homeless and unemployed. No one is going to give you a new job without a mailing address.
If GraceWorks can intervene and stop that cycle it can make all the difference. Sometimes all they need is just a little propping up in the way of some extra food, some diapers, or a new pair of shoes – just until they can get back on top of things and climb out of the dark. Sometimes, they need to be seen and prayed with, like Jean needed that day. I can do both at GraceWorks, and that is why I am happy to volunteer as a GraceWorker.