The memo from the downsizing committee was straightforward. The 1,500-dollar monthly pension Ruth had expected to receive upon retirement in 20 years had been frozen at $400 per month. To have any additional pension, she’d have to depend upon her own contributions to the 401K-investment plan.
Ruth was divorced from an unfaithful husband and hadn’t remarried; her circumstances were humble. She was wondering why the bad news about her depleted retirement funds didn’t faze her. Then the memory came flooding back.
It was five years earlier. Headed to her car in comfortable shoes, Ruth took two steps on the smooth sidewalk outside her front door when it happened. She collapsed at both ankles like a snapped twig. As she lay in the dew-soaked grass -- in spite of the physical pain -- a soothing calm washed over her, like when you put a warm electric blanket on your cold feet.
Ruth addressed the practical side of her situation but looked forward to talking with God later. “Mandy!” she shouted as loud as she could, doubting that her daughter, who was a hard sleeper, would hear her. “Mandy! Help!”
Before Ruth had to yell again, 13-year-old Mandy was outside in her pajamas, horrified to see her mom lying there – the pain etched on Ruth’s face. Pam, one of the neighbors, walked up at the same time. She called an ambulance and made arrangements to be late for work so she could follow them to the hospital in her car.
While holding Mandy’s hand, it was in the ambulance that Ruth closed her eyes and talked silently with God. “Lord, You know it was just this morning that I felt the dark clouds over my life had finally dispersed. It’s been so tough, recovering from the hysterectomy and getting my hormones balanced out. Then before that, the dental problems – You got me through that root canal, even though the dentist didn’t use happy gas! And You know how painful Mandy’s adjustment to the divorce has been. I was looking forward to easier times for Mandy and me.
“Now I know, Lord, without a doubt, that You are doing some deep work in me and I trust in Mandy, too. My situation has never been more hopeless than this one. I haven’t figured out which church You want us to join yet. I’ve no nearby family or close friends, and I have no way to get to my job; I doubt I can drive with a broken ankle. I thank You for whatever it is You’re doing in my life. You’ve always been faithful. I trust You.”
Ruth opened her eyes and saw Pam’s car through the glass in the back door of the ambulance. 'Why did Pam miss work and take the time to come with us? I hardly know her at all.' Her neighbor’s actions were as unexpected as they were thoughtful.
Pam brought them home after they found out that there were three broken bones in Ruth’s right ankle. According to her orthopedist, it was caused by bone depletion resulting from the hysterectomy. Ruth’s left ankle had a torn ligament.
Another neighbor, Cathy, was Ruth and Mandy’s ride to the hospital when Ruth had surgery, which included the addition of a steel plate in her ankle.
During the first six weeks that Ruth was healing, she was unable to walk. For Ruth, it was a time of childlike wonder as she learned how kind people can be. Neighbors she hardly knew helped every day. Family from far away came to help some, too. A favorite cousin, Peter, insisted on giving Ruth money, an amount that made up for the partial loss of pay.
Mandy was a natural nurse, but it was a lot of responsibility for her. Knowing she was an invaluable help to her mom didn’t make it any easier to see her bedridden.
When Ruth was able to work again but still unable to drive, she had help from neighbors and coworkers to get there and back every day.
Ruth hoped someday Mandy, too, would find purpose in that difficult period. Ruth had never felt more loved or more cared for than when she couldn’t walk. Most of all, though, she found out for sure that in God there is nothing to fear. And that was a lesson Ruth knew would see her through even her retirement years, no matter how much her pension turned out to be.
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