“Turkey dinner with all the fixings—that’s my wish for Christmas,” says Charlene.
This year has been tough for the 46-year-old and her family. While her husband has a good-paying job, he was laid off three times in 2012. “We can barely pay the hydro and mortgage. I could probably afford to get my two young children stocking stuffers, but that would mean no Christmas dinner.”
Charlene has spent most of her life bouncing back from rock bottom.
At 18 months Charlene’s ribs were broken when her step-father punched her for wetting her pants; at 10 she was slapped with a fork by her mother for giving bad attitude; at 12 she was whipped by her mother with a belt for stealing a dime. The list goes on.
In 2010 the generosity of The Salvation Army in Moncton changed Charlene’s world in a way that left her forever grateful. Her three-year-old headstrong son learned social skills and developed his creativity through the Army’s Tiny Tots weekly playgroup; her sister, who suffers physically and psychologically from a ruptured brain aneurysm, was helped with food; and her oldest son and daughter received much-needed practical help with linens, household items and furniture when they each got their own places.
Charlene’s days started to get a little easier, but being unsupervised, placed in dangerous situations, and made to feel stupid and worthless as a child left her with deep, lasting scars. In the fall of 2012 she attended the Army’s VIEW, a self-esteem program for women who lack confidence and positive views of themselves.
“I was so embarrassed, that I held my secrets and pain inside for the most part,” says Charlene. “The VIEW helped me discover a healthy, positive opinion of myself.”
Meanwhile, Charlene realized the magnitude of her dreadful financial situation. Her son had no winter boots. Her daughter—no winter coat. “I still sometimes don’t know how I’ll feed the children,” says Charlene.
“And it’s hard to explain why we can’t afford to give the kids basic necessities,” continues Charlene. “Life was bleak a few weeks ago when The Salvation Army gave my daughter a fleece-lined winter jacket. That raised my spirits up a notch.”
Today Charlene and her family turn the shampoo bottle upside down to get every last drop. They wait in line at grocery stores for free samples. A free newspaper has become valuable. They cherish thrift store sales. They wait for the bus. They wait for coupons in the mail.
And they wait because that’s what you do when you are poor.