When I was a young, single mother, I struggled to make ends meet. I was working at an entry level job for a whopping $4.07 an hour. That isn’t very much. By the time you pay for rent and child care, what is left? Do you pay the electric bill or go to the grocery store? Replace your child’s outgrown shoes, or hope they can make do until payday? It isn’t easy to live balanced on the edge of a knife.
One day, a British lady I worked with called me into her office and shut the door. Her name was Daphne, and she handed me an envelope with $15 in it. “I decided,” she said, “that I can afford to give you $15 a week to help with your struggles.” I was dumbstruck. $15 might not sound like a lot, but it can make the difference between feeding a child breakfast and sending him off to school hungry. But, how do you take such a thing graciously? I started to stammer that I didn’t know how I could repay such a gift. So, she told me her story.
When Daphne was a single mother in post WWII England, she had an elderly neighbor named Eugenie. Eugenie saw how Daphne was struggling, and offered to help. When Daphne objected that she could never repay her kindness, Eugenie explained that someone had once helped her in need, and told her that the best way to pay her back was to help someone else in her turn.
Daphne helped me, because Eugenie helped her. Eugenie was paying back a kindness that she had been given in her time of need. Who knows how far back that chain reached? It puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? A gift doesn’t have to be a handout – it can be a hand up. And it doesn’t have to be a huge amount to make a huge difference.
So, now I am a link in a very important chain. If I see someone in need and am able to help, I do so. It’s my obligation. I do it for Daphne and Eugenie and all the others who saw a need and had to help. When I am asked how I want to be repaid, I tell them this story. I try to do my part to make sure Daphne’s kindness is continued. She made a difference. Thank you, Daphne. I won’t forget.