Problems? She Can Relate
Angels on Earth|Jan/Feb 2021
Meet New Jersey’s Own Black Fairy Godmother
SIMONE GORDON

Slowly this time, I reread the e-mail on my phone. “We’re going to be evicted from our apartment unless we can come up with $1,000 in four hours. If there’s any way you could help, we’d be so grateful.” Teresa, a woman I’d never met, had sent it to me in New Jersey—from Maryland. She’d lost her legs in an auto accident. Every day was a struggle for her and her husband. It broke my heart.

It was 2017 and I’d told a few friends I wanted to do something good for people in need, to feel as if I was making a difference in this world. Word had spread, and thus this e-mail. But it was too much. One thousand dollars? In a single afternoon. It might as well have been a million dollars.

I was barely getting by myself. A 30-year-old single mom, raising a seven-year-old son with nonverbal autism. Laid off from my job. That’s why Teresa’s plea hit me so hard. I knew what it was like to feel helpless, unable to afford even the most basic necessities. Nowhere to turn. The walls closing in. I’d been there only a year before.

King, my sweet, beautiful baby, wouldn’t eat, not without a lot of coaxing, at least. There was something wrong. He wasn’t talking, not even to say mama. No babbling. He seemed barely aware of the world around him. But the doctors wouldn’t commit to a diagnosis. “Some children are slow in developing,” was all they could tell me.

I worried about King and prayed constantly. The strain of trying to pay my bills with an unemployment check of $219 a week weighed on me. There were times I went without eating to make sure there would be enough money for King’s formula and diapers. But it was a hopeless juggling act. Inevitably, I found myself down to just a handful of diapers and a couple of days’ worth of formula. My next unemployment check wouldn’t make it to my bank account nearly soon enough. My friends and family were struggling too, and they didn’t have anything extra to lend me.

I spent an entire day calling every agency I could think of. Either no one answered the phone or there was a recording asking me to leave a message. I finally reached someone who offered to help. “We have a form you can fill out for emergency aid,” the woman said. “If you qualify, we can get you a voucher in about two weeks.”

“Two weeks? I can’t wait that long.”

“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “That’s all I can do.”

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