an eBook to be published on Amazon in 2016
Chapter 1 preview
Sister Barb sat at her desk looking over the scholarship applications for the coming school year. All the other recipients had been chosen in the spring, but an anonymous donor just provided funding for one additional student. Each scholarship provided four full years of high school. Mrs. Conklin, the school secretary, heard a heavy sigh coming from the principal's office.
She called through the door, "Sr. Barb, what are you stressing about in there?"
The principal slowly pushed away from the desk and walked to the doorway separating the two offices.
In a concerned voice she answered, "There are so many people with limited incomes. I wish we could double the number of scholarships. I know I should be happy with one extra, but there are so many children who could do so well here if given the opportunity."
As if on cue the phone rang. She listened as Mrs. Conklin patiently explained to yet another mother about the expired application deadline. Sr. Barb threw her arms into the air as she returned to her desk. She picked up another form from her desk and began reading. She became so engrossed in the answer to the first question, “Why do you want your child to attend St. Mary Cathedral?” everything else faded into the background.
We moved to Saginaw a few months ago from Houston, Texas. My cousin, whom I had lived with for a few years when I was young, called to tell me there was a job waiting for me to clean homes with her if I wanted it. She also offered to have us live with her and her daughter.
My mother died when I was in high school and my father turned into a bitter man. He spent most of his time in a bar and he eventually left me with my aunt and her family. I stayed for a few years and never heard from my father again. When I turned 17 I met a man and thought I was in love. I moved out of my aunt’s home.
I never married Annie's father. I was just 18 when I told him I was pregnant. His reaction was to hit me across the mouth. I couldn't believe I had ever wanted to be with him and for sure knew I could never trust him with my baby. That night I walked out of his front door and never looked back. It was a new beginning.
When my cousin called, Annie and I had been struggling to make ends meet. My job ended when the clothing factory closed the previous year. Even before that the economy had been so poor that I could only find temporary jobs and we moved every year or so. I have been taking college classes to become a teacher through all these years. However, it seems that every new college I attend takes only some of my college credits.
This opportunity to have Annie's tuition paid for four years and to be able to stay in one high school would be a miracle. The second miracle would be to stay in one place to get my degree.
After talking with my cousin, Annie and I prayed, asking God for a way to get from Texas to Michigan. The following Sunday a couple sat behind us at church. I didn't know them, so I introduced my daughter and myself and welcomed them to our church. They told us they were visiting from Saginaw. Annie and I looked at each other in astonishment as I hopefully inquired, "Saginaw, Texas or Saginaw, Michigan?" The woman smiled as she proclaimed, "Michigan and proud of it."
The music began and I prayed harder than ever. Was this couple an answer to our prayers? What could I possibly say to them? Was all of this just a coincidence or a sign from God? I am ashamed to say I didn't hear one thing during that Mass. All I could do was pray and beg our good Lord for guidance. When the last word of the last song was sung I turned around and asked the woman if I could speak to her. She told me they were going to breakfast and asked us to join them. I must have shown my unease because of my lack of finances. When I tried to refuse she immediately told me we were to be their guests because we made them feel so welcomed at our church.
We talked for two hours at the restaurant. Mr. and Mrs. Forney were so interested when I told them what I had been praying for at Mass this morning. I explained that my cousin had asked us to move to Saginaw to help with her cleaning business. Before I finished the sentence Mrs. Forney asked, “Is your cousin Brianna?”
Annie and I just looked at each other with amazement. When I nodded my head she laughed and said, “This is such a small world. Brianna belongs to our church.”
Mr. Forney added, “Brianna asked for my advice when she was starting her business. She still cleans the offices at my company.”
God certainly had answered my prayers, but more than that, God had sent the Forneys towards our path before I even knew I needed an answer to my prayers. It was a moment of clarity. It seemed to me that God was pleased with this new beginning.
By the end of breakfast the Forneys insisted we should travel to Michigan with them. I still cannot believe we packed our few belongings and left the next morning with total strangers. However, looking back on it, indeed they were a gift from God.
Annie and I now live with my cousin, Brianna Steffan and her daughter, Riley. It would mean the world to us if Riley and Annie could attend the same school.
Sr. Barb set the papers on her desk. Looking out her office window, she thought about the Steffan family. Brianna and Riley had been through a terrible tragedy. A construction accident had caused the death of Brianna's husband a few years ago. After the accident, she started a small cleaning business with some insurance money. Last year Brianna confided to Sr. Barb that she was lonely and raising Riley on her own was exceedingly difficult. Sr. Barb knew Riley could be a handful; she had almost been expelled from 8th grade last year.
Sr. Barb put the application in the accepted basket. She hoped Annie would make a huge impression on Riley. Maybe it would be a turning point in all of their lives.