Remembering Pay It Forward

It is quickly approaching the one year anniversary of the day my children and I realized that we were living a lie. Nearly a year since we dropped everything and ran away from the devastation of the secret life of my now ex-husband. In that time we have been wronged in so many ways. It has taken over five months for the divorce settlement to actually go through, and even now, I have nothing … yet. I’ve been waiting for tomorrow since August 2, 2016 for that. We don’t have a child support order yet, although the first notice of request for our income was sent out on March 24, 2016. We haven’t had the criminal trial yet, even though he was arrested on March 30, 2016, and soon after released on bail. Everything along the way has been stalled or halted in one way or another, it all started when he had a massive heart attack in the courthouse on one of our many court dates. Then, he fled, he dropped his great job, a home, our family pets, everything and he headed for the hills of the Pacific Coast, we learned of this the day before his trial was to begin.

His parental rights were supposed to be terminated, but the delay for the criminal trial left the courts waiting too long and they were forced to dismiss the case with a warning to me: “If anyone tells you, even a judge, that he is to see the children you are to contact Children’s Protective Services immediately and defy all court orders, we will take care of you.”

In all of the we have felt lost in a legal process that seems to never end. We often see the light at the end of the tunnel, but every time it ends up being a train headed right for us! We squeeze ourselves between the wall of the tunnel and the train and pray, and every time, God gets us through, every single time!

In all of this, there is one memory that we hold near and dear to us! We had left our home in the darkness with nothing more than the clothes on our backs and any prescription medications that we had. We stayed a couple of nights at a relatives before being given a room in a shelter in Mason County, Michigan. We were about a week into what would become a six week stay when we woke up at 4:30am. Each of us showered and ate breakfast. Our day would include driving one of the children to school in Newaygo County, then the other to the doctor in Kent County. We would return to Newaygo County where my daughter and I would hunker down at the library so that she could do her online schooling and the other daughter would meet us to complete the evenings homework. The girls would then go to drama practice at the school in Newaygo County and finally we would return to Mason County to sleep and do it all over again. Our schedule was beyond demanding, and this was five days a week, but there were other obligations that left us travel weary and gasless the other two days of the week as well.

On one particular day we were eating breakfast and going over any changes in our normal routine when the girls and I decided we wanted to stop at McDonald’s for some bevarages before leaving Mason County. I emptied every pocket I had and counted out $4 in change, mostly pennies, but enough to get a coffee and two sodas. It was the last of my money for the forseeable future, but it was something that we could do that wasn’t a necessity.

We left a few minutes early and pulled into the drive thru at McDonald’s, right behind a Mason County Sheriff’s Deputy. He or she pulled up to the window to pay and it appeared the cashier and deputy were engaging in small talk, I watched the clock getting aggravated that the few minutes I had allowed for this were ticking away and we were going to be late. Finally the vehicle pulled away and I sadly took the change from my daughter and cupping it in two hands leaned out to pay the person. “Oh no!” she said.

“I’m sorry, this is all that we have,” I responded as a way of excusing the massive amount of pennies she would have to count.

“No,” she said, as I felt the embarrassment burning my cheeks, “the deputy paid for your order.”

I eyed her skeptically, “Really?” I felt the tears slipping down my reddened cheeks and my throat swelled to the point of making swallowing an amazing task.

“Yes,” she said, “it’s paid for, you can pull forward to get your order.”

By the time it sank in that the deputy had absolutely no way of knowing our story it was too late, he or she had long ago gotten their food and moved on with their day. My daughters, ages 15 and 12 at the time, joined me in an emotional display of private gratitude. We had just walked away from the man that had promised us everything, we only recently learned of the capacity of his destruction, we had been devastated, stunned, beyond sad. Yet, here was a total stranger, paying it forward, with no knowledge of our story, effectively restoring our faith in humanity in a single transaction.

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