Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Quiet Meaningful Miracle

 BBC News - In pictures: Scottish Borders Tweed Valley rainbows

My college years were years of financial struggle. During my teens I was prudent enough to put away much of what I made during a full schedule of babysitting my neighbors' children and what I earned at Taco Siesta. Babysitting brought in 50 cents an hour, until the summer I was 17, when I raised it to 75 cents an hour. Minimum wage at food establishments such as Taco Siesta was $1.45 per hour.

My freshman year (72-73) was spent attending COC, a local community college that was free. It gave me an extra year to earn college money. And during that school year I worked mostly part-time at Magic Mountain (now Six-Flags Magic Mountain), starting out at about $1.60/hour. My parents' desire was that after my freshman year I would transfer to a 4-year college a half hour from our home, a plan I had zero interest in for two reasons. First, I had the wanderlust, a burning need to get away. And second, the school for me was Brigham Young University. I wasn't even a Mormon, but had decided to transfer to BYU.

When my folks heard my plan for transfer, they played their trump card: if I went to BYU they would not give me a red cent.  My reply: "suit yourselves." And I increased my hours of work at Magic Mountain. In their defense, they knew nothing about this Mormon school--for all they knew it was some weird cult place that would brainwash me into a zombie (and zombies weren't even a thing back then). In the meantime I became a Mormon and in the fall of 1973, landed at BYU (tuition $300 per semester) giddy with excitement and on the cusp of a marvelous experience.

That sophomore year was fantastic, though my financial circumstances caused me some stress. While my roommates went skiing or did some other thing that cost money,  I humbly refrained. At one point I had to borrow some money from my folks to tide me over for a month until my tax return arrived. They weren't happy about it but made the short-term loan anyhow.

The end of that school year approached and I found myself standing on the edge of a cliff with no way out. To reserve an apartment for the next fall required a $50 deposit, and I was down to about $5 to my name. I knew that when I returned home I could get back my old job at Magic Mountain, but the first paycheck wouldn't come in for several weeks, and by that time the apartment my roommates were reserving would be full and I'd be without a place to live. Such agony it was, and worry and stress. No way did I let on to my roommates what dire straits I was in.

And then, the miracle. A card arrived in the mail one day from my Baba (my grandma). She did not write letters but would send a card on my birthday and Christmas. It wasn't my birthday or Christmas, but yet there was a card from her. When I opened it something fluttered out onto the floor. It was a check. A check from Baba. A check for $50. Not for $25, not for $100, but $50. She didn't know.  No one knew. Except Heavenly Father.

Until the end of this life I will never forget Heavenly Father's love for me, his awareness of my circumstances and that he inspired someone in my behalf.


  1. I lived in Kimball Hall and I loved it. I'm sure the new halls are nice but I didn't really see a problem with the old ones so I probably am not that picky. It was fun to look through all your pictures and remember taking very similar ones myself. My parents didn't pay any of my college either with the exception of my mom paying my my first months rent that first year on Kimball and then freshman year second semester my dad sent me three hundred dollars right before I had to buy books. It was the only money he ever gave me while I was in college and I remember it being a miracle at the time as well. Besides that I cobbled together scholarship money and worked the entire time I was there. It was exhausting. I loved college and I did pretty well but I often think I probably could have been amazing had I not had to spend those extra hours a week working. I'd get home from work and then have to find a way to do homework while I squeezed in time to play with my roommates who had been studying the whole time I was at work and just wanted to hang out. I guess I could have been more anti social but the social part was what made BYU so fun :) I also had amazing teachers. I'm so grateful for the foundation they set for me. J and I try to put money away for the kids for college. A lot of people tell us the kids will be fine just working it out on their own and I guess we both ended up fine but sometimes when you know, you want to do better.

    1. You had a similar experience. Your roommates sound like mine--they wanted to goof off until the wee hours of the morning so I would go to the library to read/write/study until it closed at 11 p.m. and they thought sometimes I didn't want to be with them. Not so at all, but I had to budget that fun time.

      I didn't work during my soph & junior years, just worked massive amounts of hours in the summer (last half of senior year worked full-time). My major was history which meant reading thousands and thousands of pages every month and writing till my hand fell off. I just couldn't figure out when to work.

      For our kids now tuition-books-room & board is likely more expensive in today's dollars than it was for us. BUT--and that's a really big but--students want and have more today. I never had a car or bought clothes or went on a vacation or went to a restaurant or spent $$ on extra-curricular stuff. Students now have and do all that, then complain about the cost of college. I don't feel it's a negative to help our kids through college, as long as they contribute a lot and are careful with their resources.

      Those new Heritage Halls are stunning and so luxurious compared to the originals. It concerns me when students, during the time they're supposed to be poor, live in such nice circumstances. They'll be shocked when they get into the real world and start out in dumpy apartments.

    2. The first place we lived in when we got married was a basement studio apartment....$300 a month. Our home teachers used to sit on the borrowed from my aunt couch and we'd sit on the edge of the bed. Our second place had a folding door in front of the bed but the only bathroom was in the bedroom area so guest had to see our bed when they used it and you couldn't close the closet door with our full bed in there because the room was so small. Our third place had two bedrooms but had tons of mice and our house was always full of our neighbors cigarette smoke and one time our upstairs neighbors toilet overflowed and was pouring into our bathroom and kitchen and they just left to get a plunger and didn't turn the water off first. We were always happy though. I think you are right. It wasn't that big of a deal because each one was a little step up :)