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Turning Tides: Windfall

As told to Leah Gebber

I’m no believer in fairy godmothers or pumpkins that turn into golden carriages. But this fairy tale is real — it happened to our family.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

moneyBaruch Hashem, I’ve been blessed with a large family. I’ve also been blessed with a laid-back disposition, so the fact that at times I feel like a traffic director, as kids traipse in and out of the house and I ladle out hundreds of bowls of my famous mushroom soup, well, it never bothers me. I thrive on it. The bank balance, though, doesn’t.

I’ve never worked, though I always meant to. Every couple of years I’d decide, that’s it, I’m getting a job, but something always came up — we moved that year, or I was expecting another baby, and then, when my daughter was born with Down syndrome, I pushed the idea right out of my head. Who can worry about résumés when multiple heart surgeries are scheduled in your calendar? And then there were therapies....

So I put my whole cheerful soul into making a beautiful (in atmosphere, that is, not decor) home for Chaim and our family, and for the many people who drifted in and out of our lives — new baalei teshuvah, lonely yeshivah bochurim, divorcées, and those who were a little bit off, unwelcome by society, but always welcome in our home.

Whoever it was, we’d clear off the latest art projects and math homework and the tools and screws (that’s what happens when you have boys), and find them a bowl of soup, a fresh roll. I’d sit and listen to them while I chopped salad or cleaned chicken.

The kids got older and Chaim’s salary stayed the same, and money got tight. I worried about this — because I wasn’t bringing in an income, I felt powerless to effect any change (beside for switching from ground beef to ground turkey). Chaim has always been a tzaddik, and he told me again and again, “You just do your work to help Hashem’s children, and He’ll help us along.” Okay, I hear, but I wasn’t holding there....

I started saying more Tehillim, which was good for me, sure, but I still didn’t know how we were going to manage the bar mitzvahs that kept coming and the weddings that shimmered on the horizon.

One afternoon we had a knock on the door. It was Mrs. Gutfarb — an elderly widow who lived next door. She came to us pretty often for Shabbos meals, and I used to pop in there before I went to the grocery store to see if I could throw a few extra items in my groaning cart, and save her a trip to the store.

“Come in, Mrs. Gutfarb,” I said.

She was nervous as she followed me into the living room — her breath was a little short and she clutched a creased leather bag to her chest.


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