I was excited to get my car back today. It was in the repair shop for the last 29 days. I was involved in a fender bender which took me out of my normal routine to say the least. It was this time a year ago that a deer ran into the side of my car and caused extensive damage. That car had to be totaled. This year the accident was with another car and not nearly as serious, just a pain to deal with. The repair shop staff was great to work with and the insurance company was fine as well. A minor glitch occurred when the adjuster sent the check to the wrong address and it was returned to sender. I got a phone call from him when the check was returned and we discovered that someone in his office had keyed in our address as West instead of East so the check could not be delivered. He sent out another check and it arrived about 4 days later. All that remained was for me to pay the $500 deductible to move past this event and get back to normal.
If I were a financially struggling person this minor event might have been major with a capital M. Accessing $500 might have been too far to reach. It could have changed plans significantly in my household through all of 2018. I was able to rent a car and not miss work, but what if renting a car wasn’t an option? Trying to find a ride to work for 29 days could prove difficult since I work outside the county. Could my job be at risk? Presents under the tree? Doubtful. How much food would be provided or missed for months to come without that $500? If I was counting on that money to see my family through the coldest months of the year on the horizon, the temperature in the house might have to be turned down significantly or off whenever we could stand it. If any illness happens to pop up, the medical attention may have to wait or prescriptions may have to go unfilled. $500 may be the rent that I have to explain I can’t pay to the landlord who has let me slide before, but maybe not this time. Which bad choice of these and others might I have to make?
It was 1979 and 2 days before Christmas. I got a phone call from my wife, who was at home with our 4 kids, which rearranged life for my family for several months. “We don’t have any water”. Oh the joys of living in the country! We had bought a “repo” on contract earlier in the year. The well pump had to be dug up in the front yard and everything had to be replaced, even the rusted out holding tank in the garage. I’m pretty sure we bought the Christmas presents for the plumber’s family that year. Things were more difficult after that for a while. I think it took all of 1980 to pay off that unexpected debt.
Today, I wrote the $500 check and was very thankful I had the money to do it, but will always remember when I didn’t. Others out there will experience an unexpected “curve ball from life” over the next few months which doesn’t make them a bad person who isn’t trying, but one who is just trying to get through to next week.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 20 schools to provide food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.