Over 25 years ago I found myself homeless. Not just me but homeless with a 2-month-old baby. I felt alone. My family lived miles away, some abroad. My Over 25 years ago I found myself homeless. Not just me but homeless with a mother was the closest about 50 miles but my shame kept me from returning to her. I did not drive and certainly did not have a car. I had the clothes I stood in and my baby.
I moved into a woman’s refuge with my daughter. We shared a box room with a single bed and make shift cot. For 3 months, I was at rock bottom. One night as I lay awake in my bed listening to the man upstairs beat his wife; I could not have hated myself more. Here I was bringing a child up with no knowledge or idea of who I was, no home or financial support. I contemplated adoption but every time I looked at her face my heart swelled. I had a choice to quit or to fight. I chose to fight.
By the fourth month I was transferred to a caravan site near the refuge, the site was a mixture of people down on their luck, crooks, addicts and lost souls. But it was a home for my daughter and I was so gratefully. I was suffering from postnatal depression and struggled every day just to get through it. I was riddled with missed placed guilt for getting myself in this situation I had heard it all ‘single parent’, ‘no education’, ‘no home’, ‘no prospects’ and I would pray out loud for a miracle everyday.
As I slept one night I dreamt I was in a great hall, all around me I could see people at desks writing and all I could hear was the ticking of the clock, when I awoke at first I was confused. But the more I dissected the dream the more I knew in my heart it was a sign. I had wanted to return to study all my adult life and in order that I give my child a chance in life I had to do this. But how? Here I was at 24 years old with nothing but 3 grade D cse’s to my name who was going to give me a chance?
That afternoon I was flicking through the free paper and saw an advertisement from the local college. It was a course for mature students, the idea of the course was to enable people who had not gained any qualification to try again and also have the opportunity to go onto further study after a year. I felt a rise of excitement for the first time in months, I knew this was my answer.
You may wonder if I stopped to think of the logistics of who would care for my child it did not even enter my head. I just new it would work out. I felt a faith and trust I cannot explain. Everything had fallen apart in my life so what did I have to loose trusting that this was right.
When I telephoned the college about the course I was told it had closed the day before. My heart sank. But, said the administrator ” this must be your lucky day as someone that very morning had dropped out”, therefore there was an opening but I still had to get through the interview. At the interview the tutor said she was touched by my story and wanted to help me begin a new life and I was overjoyed of the prospect of studying again. I even hugged her when she told me of the free crèche available which had incidentally been set up that week by the local council. I left with tears of hope and relief streaming down my face and the acceptance paper in my hand. I was full of hope.
But as the months passed, I found it harder and harder to cope financially, the bus fare to college was expensive and I had a class 4 days a week. I received very little each week from the government and needed to buy baby food, pay for electricity and heat the caravan, which had a coal fire. The coal alone was £8 a kilo and I had to keep the fire burning to have hot water and heat. This winter was very bad, the worst it had been in years and it had come early and with such force. I would generally sleep fully clothed with my daughter wrapped in back keys next to me.
One morning in December I was woken up to my daughter crying. She was cold. The ice inside the caravan windows had not even melted with the condensation. The caravan was so cold the pipes had frozen again, I was used to this and had filled buckets and pots with water the night before. It had been snowing for three days. I had no coal for the fire, I boiled the kettle to fill the hot water bottle I kept in her cot to settle her whilst I rummaged around in my cupboards for the last of the baby rice and milk for her breakfast, three scopes left. I felt at the depths of despair. “Why was this happening” I wanted to shout, “what do you want from me”!! I fed and clothed my daughter and wrapped her up in the buggy to start the 3-mile walk to the college as I did not have the fare. I was used to going with out food so this did not bother me and I knew the crèche would feed her throughout the day, which was a blessing.
As the day rolled on I began to panic, I knew I had no food at home and no coal for the fire, it had snowed all day and the caravan would be even colder, the walls were paper thin and the open field it stood in meant there was nothing to shield the bad weather. I was desperate. After my last class I hid in the library to keep warm for the last two hours that the college was open. I tried to think of a plan, how I was going to get myself out of this situation.
As I walked home from the college I cut through the town, it would be warmer and the Christmas lights were up as the night drew in. I prayed under my breath with every step I took, I asked god and the angels for help, help to feed my child and keep her warm at night. Saying the words like a mantra over and over. And suddenly as I walked close by a bank I heard the sound of a cash point. As I looked over a mist appeared all around me and I could no longer see the shoppers running back and forth. I stopped and blinked. I can only describe this mist as an almost gossamer curtain that enveloped me, my daughter and this cash point that had now produced pound notes. I felt rooted to the spot. I heard a voice say “take it “ and without even thinking I stretched out my hand and took the crisp twenty pound notes, the sharp paper cutting into my cold hands, I quickly crumpled it and shoved it into my pocket. My heart was pounding through my body almost deafening me. My stomach jumping like a spring lamb. I then started to push the buggy as I took a few steps and the mist dispersed with every step and once again I was in a busy street with people rushing about. Through tears of joy and surprise I thanked god as I marched into the supermarket and placed food into my shopping trolley. Even the weight of the bags banging against my legs on the 3 mile walk home could not dampen my spirits. When I reached the caravan site I called into the sight manager and asked for the coal, all the while smiling. I was able to care for my daughter I realised I was not alone.
What made we trust and listen to my dream, what made me trust the tutor who in a 10 minute meeting believed in my ability to study after such a bad start at school, what made me trust that I would be helped. I really don’t know, I cannot answer, but I truly believe I had got to the point where I thought ‘what is the worst that could happen’, I had to take a leap of faith. I even went onto study at university and once again a free crèche was provided for me which was new to the university that year. When I graduated my daughter had then started nursery so once again I was able to find work to suit her school hours.
I have learnt that in life you need to trust the process and accept what happens. We may have free will but I think I would rather be guided by divine will.
© 2014 Sharon Elliott