My name is Tedani. I met Becca the day she moved into her apartment in Dallas. I helped her and her two kids carry their belongings inside on that scorching Texas afternoon. They had no furniture, only their clothing, personal items, and some garage sale vintage cookware. Becca seemed tired but more than just fatigued from moving. Becca was bone tired like a wounded animal seeking shelter in which to die. It was obvious to me that Becca pushed herself onward ruthlessly for the sake of her children. My heart went out to Becca.
On a certain day destined to change Becca’s life, she and I chatted together on a bench in the courtyard outside her apartment. She lit a cigarette and tried to relax as we watched a squirrel nibble an acorn.
“Look, Becca,” I said pointing at the squirrel.
Twitching its nose, scrutinizing us as we observed it, suddenly, up the tree it ran. Scurrying down a branch lush with green leaves, scampering all the way to the end, it stopped. From that lofty place of safety the squirrel stared back at us.
“I wish I were as carefree as that squirrel,” Becca said.
Becca experienced little, if any, peace. Trouble camped at her doorstep every day of her life. Without employment or transportation, living in a state more than a thousand miles from her family, and government assistance very small, Becca’s circumstance was dire. Her parents had sent her money to move into her Dallas apartment and set up her utility accounts, but that was as much as they could do. Rent and utility payments following Becca had to provide. Friends of Becca came through for her from time to time. The battle to survive had taken a toll on Becca.
She put out the cigarette and sipped her cup of coffee.
Becca tried to quit smoking a few times, but it hadn’t worked for her. As her stress level increased, her craving for cigarettes intensified. Her hands sometimes trembled causing a cigarette to jitter between her fingers while she smoked it.
Becca and I often shared this bench situated in the shade surrounded by nature. The view from the bench was pleasantly scenic in spite of the lack of professional landscaping. On this day we talked more than usual, which conversation I will tell you more about later on. Let me give you some background about Becca.
Becca lived out her childhood in the upper peninsula of Michigan, a place she cherished in her memories in spite of hating the winter cold. She lived there with her mother and father and younger sister until her parents split shortly after she turned sixteen. Becca moved in with her grandmother, also a resident of upper Michigan, and remained there until she was eighteen.
At eighteen Becca met Toby, the man she thought she would always love. This proved untrue, but not because Becca failed to give Toby her heart. She birthed their son, David, in Michigan a year and a half later. Toby and Becca moved to Arkansas for reasons I won’t mention. Some things that happened to Becca I will not divulge. Arkansas became a prison, of a sort, for her. Memories of her life in Arkansas with Toby haunt her. Becca endured those years of suffering hoping that Toby would change. Her final escape from bondage showed the courage that grew inside her.
At the end of her relationship with Toby, still in Arkansas and running from Toby with David in her arms, Becca met James. This light-hearted and gentle guy helped Becca heal from her tragic first romance. Becca loved James and treated him with respect, devotion, and patience, unending patience. James fathered her second child, a girl they named Jessica. However, the failings of James, which worsened over the years, made living with him impossible. As much as she wanted to spend her life with James, Becca finally acknowledged that this relationship was unmistakably unsustainable. Over a period of time Becca slowly relinquished her emotional grip on James. She left him.
Next into Becca’s life came Brian. Becca met Brian in Arkansas. He was visiting a friend there, but he lived in the state of Texas. Brian became relationship number three, and Brandy, their daughter, was born in Texas. Brian, too, had serious issues that were uncontrollable and intolerable. Becca tried her best to make it work. She admitted defeat reluctantly after many attempts to turn the unthinkable into a stable and happy life.
Thirty-five years old and struggling to survive in the decadent decade of 2010, in these United States of America, Becca contemplated the status of her life. She had three children, all by different fathers, none of which contributed a dime to child support. And she was still waiting for a wedding.
Considering some obviously bad choices Becca made over the years, should the reader conclude that Becca is less than a worthy person, let me clear that up. Becca is a beautiful person, inside and out. She is well liked by most people that know her. Customer service was her niche in the employment world, when there were jobs to be had. Becca loves people. Something about her vulnerability brings out the hero instinct in a man. If the old cliché were true that a boy becomes a man when a man is needed, at least one of Becca’s partners should have risen to the challenge. A man seems to feel his worth in her presence. Substance abuse and emotional affliction affecting the personalities of each of her former three men prevented any one of them from rising to the task.
Becca, David, Jessica, and Brandy huddled together, figuratively speaking. Becca was determined to be the best single mom she could be. A grant from the government and an Internet connection paid for by Aunt Jonnie enabled Becca to attend an online university. She consistently maintained a 3.9 grade point average and constantly sought employment in a dead-end economy. In the face of her bleak situation, Becca held on one day at a time. Provision seemed to come to her in small lots and just in time to avert disaster.
A couple, Cayda and Tom, had moved in with Becca and her children shortly before our significant chat on the bench. The couple had two children, a boy and a girl. The apartment was too small for two families, but living in a failed economy, people did what they had to do. Cayda and Tom paid Becca one week’s rent and brought along enough food for all of them for a few days. Becca worried that she might be evicted for occupancy violation, but eviction for nonpayment of rent was more imminent. An errand boy from the office would have slapped a notice on her door within a few days if she had failed to pay the rent on time.
Becca lit another cigarette and puffed it slowly. She smoked the cheap brand that made her choke. Even though she still smoked, the number of cigarettes she could purchase steadily dwindled. Household expenses had to come first, toilet paper, shampoo, etc. Groceries came from food banks and a small portion from food stamps. Becca knew how to drive but she didn’t own a car. The electric bill already a month behind was waiting to be paid and the rent was due again.
We ended the extraordinary conversation I mentioned above as Becca put out her second cigarette. She left one lone cigarette slanting sideways inside the pack saving it for another time. We left the bench.
I walked with Becca back to her apartment. Cayda was seated outside in a lawn chair.
“Hey, Becca,” Cayda, said. “Where have you been?”
“Sitting on the bench with Tedani,” Becca replied.
Becca and I sat down in lawn chairs next to Cayda.
“You had a phone call, Becca. Here’s your phone. You left it inside.”
Cayda handed the cell phone to Becca.
“Who was it?” Becca asked
“I don’t know.”
Becca returned the call while Cayda and I talked.
“I may have a job soon!” Becca said at the end of her phone conversation. “I have an interview on Wednesday at ten o’clock in the morning. Will Tom take me there?”
Cayda and Tom owned a car, an older model Ford, but Cayda’s license to drive had been suspended.
“I’m sure Tom will be glad to take you there,” Cayda replied. “Where do you have to go?”
“North of Dallas, a small town, Clackerton Point. I need an outfit, too. I really want this job. It’s a position as a dental assistant. I never thought I’d get a chance at it, but my Aunt Jonnie knows one of the dentists. He used to live in Michigan and moved to Texas. She put in a good word for me.”
Becca phoned Aunt Jonnie in Michigan. She told her about the interview and her need for an outfit. Aunt Jonnie agreed to send her money. After the call Becca put the phone in her pocket.
“Cayda, I need Tom to run me to a Western Union office also? My aunt’s sending me money for an outfit.”
“Here’s Tom. Tell him what you want.”
Tom walked up the weed infiltrated path and joined the group sitting on the ground next to Cayda.
Becca explained and Tom agreed to take her wherever she wanted to go. He also consented to take her to the interview in Clackerton Point on Wednesday.
I was excited to hear about Becca’s interview. I commented on how things already looked better for Becca.
“Tedani, do you really think my life will change?” Becca said.
“Yes, Becca. I do.”
Becca landed the job in Clackerton Point.
Over a period of four years Becca’s life has changed more than anyone would ever guess. This is the time to tell you about the momentous conversation we had on the bench.
During the years that Becca lived with her grandmother in Michigan, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, she attended church. One Sunday, during a particular classroom discussion, a teacher presented photos of a mission project in some faraway land. Becca felt that God wanted her to become a missionary. She said she thought about it for many days but decided she wanted to be married first. She made up her mind that she would think about becoming a missionary after finding a husband.
Somewhere between that day in church and her seventeenth year, Becca stopped going to church. She developed friendships with people in her school. She began thinking more like they thought and she forgot all about becoming a missionary. She met Toby. Toby wasn’t interested in marriage. All Becca’s friends were living in relationships without marriage. Everyone was doing it.
Becca hadn’t thought about her experience in the church classroom for many years. This day on the bench Becca told me about it. Her heart was broken. Her life was broken. Whatever made Becca think about that day long ago, she didn’t know or understand. I said that maybe God had put it on her mind.
“I wish I’d made up my mind to become a missionary that day,” Becca said as we sat together on the bench in the courtyard.
I asked Becca if she was certain that God truly had called her to be a missionary.
“No,” Becca said. “I wasn’t sure. I only wish I’d been willing. If I’d been willing, my life may have been different.”
I encouraged Becca to make a decision as though this were the day long ago. Tears filled her eyes. Becca told me that God didn’t want her anymore. Of course, that wasn’t true.
“Becca, you said that you weren’t sure that God wanted you to be a missionary,” I said. “You only know that you weren’t willing. Are you willing now to do whatever God wants you to do?”
Becca said she wasn’t sure about that, but she asked if she and the kids could go to church with me and my family. Becca hadn’t been to church since she’d attended with her grandmother back in Michigan. Becca, David, Jessica, and Brandy began attending church with us on Sundays. The first Sunday was the Sunday after our chat on the bench.
Becca’s life is very different now. She started the job as a dental assistant the Monday following her first Sunday at church. By the end of the fourth month, Becca and the kids stopped riding to church with us. A dentist that Becca loved and respected began taking her and the children to his church on Sunday. By the end of the ninth month, the dentist had proposed to Becca. By the end of the year, he had married her. Becca finally got her wedding. It was lovely. I was invited.
Becca continued her online education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is working on her doctorate. Her children are home schooled by their nanny. Becca helps others from time to time like her friends and family used to help her. We don’t chat on the bench any longer. We visit over lunch at our favorite restaurant. Becca drives a Toyota. She picks me up or I meet her at the restaurant.
Oh, did I mention that Becca doesn’t smoke anymore? Well, she doesn’t smoke anymore. The stress in her life slowed down and she tackled that difficult project again. It worked!
Becca receives counseling to help her to cope with the terrors she experienced during her years with Toby. David, Jessica, and Brandy are doing well considering the stressful lives they lived for such a long time.
I believe the blessing of God changed Becca’s life. More importantly, Becca believes the blessing of God changed her life. David, Becca’s son, is about to turn eighteen years old, and he believes that God has called him to the mission field. He starts seminary in the fall.
By Carol Ann Hoel © July 16, 2010