A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Allison (not her real name) is approaching the end of her first year as a single mom.

As you might expect, it hasn’t been an especially fun year.  Countless lessons have been learned – some pleasantly, some painfully.

“I have gained so much respect for the women I’ve known throughout my life who were single moms,” she told me recently.  “I just had no idea what they were going through.”

Allison is the first to admit that as hard as the year has been, she has it better than many single moms.  Her brother and his wife live nearby, and they have helped a lot with childcare, shared meals and a shoulder upon which to occasionally cry.  She has loving, supportive friends who have sustained her.  And although her relationship with her ex-husband is understandably strained, they have been able to work together cooperatively for their daughter’s well being.

“I don’t know how other single moms do it,” she said.  “I have been so blessed.”

Still, she struggles – especially financially.  Thankfully, she’s been able to stay gainfully employed, but without a college education or much employment experience, her options are limited – as is her salary range.

Which is why she started nail school.

“My goal is to have my own full-service salon – hair, nails, make-up, that sort of thing,” she said.  “So I’m going to start out learning to be a nail technician, then I can use that training to help me earn my way through my hair salon apprenticeship.  Then I can go to work and save up enough to open my own business.”

And that will be great – down the road.  But for right now, financial survival is a struggle.  Nail school tuition and fees pretty much wiped out her meager savings, and class and lab attendance requirements made it so she had to quit her full-time job.  She’s working part-time at a convenience store while going to school full-time.  Between living expenses, childcare costs and the high price of gasoline to take her from home to school to work, there is barely enough to meet the demand, let alone any additional costs.

Like new nail equipment.

“Our tuition paid for enough stuff to get us through nail school,” Allison said.  “But now they’re telling us that to be marketable in the workplace we will need to upgrade our equipment.  Like there’s this drill we will need that costs $150.  Where am I going to come up with that kind of money?  I barely make it through the week as it is.”

Enter Marie (not her real name, either).

Marie is one of Allison’s classmates at nail school.  Although she is old enough to be Allison’s mother, the two women have become good friends.  So Allison didn’t think it unusual when Marie took her aside during a break the other day.

“So, did you get your new drill yet?” Marie asked casually.

Allison laughed a little sarcastically.  “Yeah, right,” she said. “When pigs fly!”

“Better get out your umbrella,” Marie replied as she pressed an object into Allison’s hands.  “It’s raining bacon.”

Allison looked at the object in her hands.  It was the new $150 drill she needed.  Overwhelmed, she started to protest, but Marie just held up a hand.

“I was a single mom too, and I know how hard it is,” she said.  “I never would have made it without help from caring people.  So let me do this for you now.  Then someday, when things are better for you, you can pay me back by doing something like this for another single mom.”

Another lesson learned – pleasantly.

Or at least, as pleasantly as possible when it’s raining bacon.

-- © Joseph Walker

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