The voice and the request and variations on the request were all too familiar.
“Do you think you could help me out with my electric bill? It’s $292.00 and they’re gonna’ turn it off. I got my check, but I had to pay my car insurance ’cause I cain’t let that go, and I cain’t pay the electric bill and the insurance, both.”
“You don’t have any money for it all?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
“No. None. But we’ll pay you back. I promise. I can pay $24.00 a month until it is all paid off. You’ll get your money. We’ll pay you back.”
“But, Dawn, that will take you over a year at $24.00 a month . . .”
“Well, then, we could maybe pay you $30.00. Or whatever we could afford. We’ll pay you what we can afford.”
“I can’t tell you what Mr. Daniel will say,” I said to her. “He is the one who makes these decisions. I will talk to him and let you know. I should tell you, though, that I don’t think he is going to be willing to pay all of it. When is it due?”
“Not until the 23rd. But I like to get on these things before the last minute.”
“That does give us some time, though, and I appreciate you not waiting until the last minute. I will talk to Mr. Daniel and see what he has to say.
She was quiet, then, not making promises any more, and the conversation soon ended.
I talked to Daniel. As deacon at our church, he has been inundated with requests this month for food and diapers and electric bills and almost anything people can think of. There are just a lot of needy, desperate people right now.
“Can they come up with any of it all?” was his first response when I told him about this request. It involves “Our Kids” so it sits a whole lot closer to our hearts. What will happen if they turn off the electric?
“I don’t know,” I said, but hastened to add, “I sometimes think that she asks early so that if she happens to have any extra money, she can go ahead and spend it and doesn’t have to save it for the electric bill.”
He pondered things awhile, then said, “They are going to have to come up with part of it. They need to at least be responsible for half of it.”
So I told her the next time that I talked to her that we would pay half, and that she needed to be trying to come up with the rest of it. I could tell she wasn’t happy about it at all, but it is one of the things that has brought so much peace into my life — to remember that God didn’t make me the deacon, and when Daniel feels that something is the way it ought to be, it is just far better to do it his way than any other. Besides, it gives me someone to blame it on. (UH-HUH! I am like that!)
They came last night — all of them piled into the vehicle so that mama could pick up the check. She came in and watched as I wrote it out for half. I made it out to the electric company, noted the account name on the memo line, and handed it to her.
She looked it over, then said,”Do you think the Electric Company will turn it off if this is all I can give them? It’s a deferred payment and all that I’m behind in. Do you think they will accept this?”
“I don’t know, Dawn. I know the City of Milford Electric is sometimes pretty unreasonable, but I don’t really know what your agreement is, so I really can’t say what they will do. You weren’t able to come up with anything for the rest of the bill?”
I felt terrible, but I also had this strong feeling that we were not to bail her out. So I hardened my heart and I said, “Well, Dawn. You are going to have to figure this out. I guess you will have to take in what you have and see what they have to say. Mr. Daniel said ‘half’ and I need to do what he says.”
She looked stricken, but headed for the door.
“I want to come out and see the kids.”
She didn’t say anything, so I followed her out. I was tired last night, and wasn’t feeling the best, but I poked my head up against the four inch window opening and tried to talk to the kids. But I couldn’t totally miss the exchange going on in the front seat.
“No.” I heard Dawn say. “NO, she didn’t.”
Seneca made a protest noise in his throat and Dawn shook her head at him with pursed lips. He made another comment under his breath and she again shook her head.
“I don’t know. We’ll talk about it later,” she said grimly. The kids weren’t paying any attention to me. The were somber, watching the adults, and almost unable to respond to my questions at all.
I decided that I felt bad enough and that the discussion wasn’t beneficial to any of us, so I bid everyone goodnight, told the kids that I loved them and went back to the house.
The phone rang this evening and I saw it was from them. I almost didn’t answer it, but decided that I had better.
“Ms. Mary Ann, I wanted to tell you what happened with the electric bill and everything.” There was an unfamiliar tenor to this voice. “Last night, I didn’t know what to do, so I prayed and prayed. I just took my Bible and went into my room. I wasn’t being ignorant or anything, I just needed to be alone. And I prayed and prayed. I kept telling God that I didn’t know what to do. And then, this morning, there was a knock at my door. Two years ago, someone I worked for borrowed a hundred and twenty dollars from me, and they paid it back! I didn’t think I was ever going to get it, but they came this morning and paid it back. With what the church gave and what I had, it covered the electric bill!” She was so excited she could hardly contain herself.
“Dawn,” I said, when I could finally get a word in edgewise, “this is the stuff that you really need to be sharing with your children. When God answers prayer like this, it is the way that children’s faith grows. You need to be sure to tell them this story.”
“Oh, I know,” she said. “I tell them all the time that prayer changes things and that we need to pray about things.”
“Also, Dawn,” I said. “I want you to think about something else. If Mr. Daniel had given you the money for the whole electric bill last night, you would have missed this excellent provision of the LORD. If it had been up to me, I would probably have thought we should give it, but he felt so strongly that we should not, and he was right! This gave God the opportunity to provide for you and your family in a special way. This is so wonderful!”
Did she grasp it? I don’t know. But I do know this. I have an even deeper respect for the things that God impresses on my husband’s heart when it comes to things like this. It has happened often enough that you would think I would have learned by now to just trust him. Maybe this lesson was as much for me as it was for Dawn and her family.
Whatever. I just know that it “sets the joy-bells ringing in my heart!”