Chris, a single mom, lived with her two somewhat adult children in a row home in one of the tougher neighborhoods just outside of Philly. They were surviving, but just barely, after the loss of her husband in a warehouse accident a few years earlier. Marco had managed to scrape up enough money from his just-better-than minimum wage position to purchase life insurance—life insurance that still remained untouched.
See, Chris had a dream for her daughters—dreams that included college and getting out of this neighborhood. If they could just survive long enough, and not touch the money, that money would be used to pay for their education.
But Chris’ plans were not her daughter’s plans.
Maria- the older daughter- wasn’t having any of it. She knew her mom was still hurting, and barely surviving herself. After excelling at school, even getting a few scholarship offers at the state university, Maria chose instead to go to work—graveyard shift at the local Waffle House—to help her mom emotionally and financially.
Acacia, her name meant “thorny” and her name fit. When she was born, mom and dad were so proud. She got into some trouble when she was younger, but nothing too bad. But when her dad died when she was only 13, it sent her life into a tailspin. Where Maria grieved openly and her grief led to a closer relationship with her mom, Acacia held it all in, and the anger and the rage led to her embracing the street more than the home.
She’d heard rumors about the life insurance. And she looked at it as her way out. Two days after her 18th birthday, and 2 months before her high school graduation, Acacia approached her mom and asked for her part. This was her break. What she needed. She was going to L.A.—was going to make it in the music industry or find work as an actress.
And the first year, she did. Her money provided a decent apartment, some quality studio time, and enough for her and her new-found friends to start to live it up. And live it up, they did. Soon, the parties replaced the work, the drugs became harder and harder, and the calls home became less and less frequent. Until one day, they stopped altogether.
It doesn’t take much to see where the story is headed. Her money supply wasn’t endless. As it ran out, so did the parties, so did the job offers, and eventually so did her friends. Alone, Acacia arrived home one Thursday afternoon to an eviction notice on her door. She had three days to vacate the premises. Job-less, friend-less, about-to-be home-less and literally, penny-less. Acacia didn’t know where to turn.
But she scraped up enough money to call home, hoping her mom or sister would be there to answer.
When the caller ID showed an unfamiliar number from LA, Acacia’s mom ran to the phone, assuming the worst. But when she heard her girl’s voice on the other end of the line, she fell to her knees, she raised her hands in jubilation and said, “Praise God, my daughter is alive.”
Then she heard these words.
“Mom, I need help.”
Acacia didn’t know what to expect. Her mom had the right to disown her, and she’d only have herself to blame. Still, after taking down Acacia’s information, her mom had told her to show up at the local bus stop. There was a ride going from L.A. to Philadelphia leaving at 6pm Saturday night. She needed to find a way there.
Now Acacia still wasn’t sure. She was desperate, so she clung to what little hope she had left. I mean, if she didn’t have a way home, Saturday was her last day in her apartment anyway. So she hoped beyond hope. But as day turned to night, and back to day and back to night, doubt began to surface. Her friends had abandoned her, why wouldn’t her mom? She did have every right to.
She arrived at the bus station a little early, hoping to get in line and get a seat near the back of the bus where she could stretch out and remain anonymous. She went to the ticket counter, with nervousness obviously running through her body. She wasn’t even sure why. Maybe it was because she was tired. She hadn’t slept well in weeks. Maybe it was her body detoxing.
Yeah that was probably it.
Or maybe it was just that she didn’t know where else to turn.
She handed her ID to the person behind the counter. After a brief glimpse at his computer, he apologized but there were no reservations under that name. She said, “Well maybe it’s under my mom’s name, she made the reservations? Or maybe it’s another bus?” But the older man responded that there were no reservations under that last name on any of their buses. “Next.”
Acacia was crushed. It wasn’t that she deserved it. She knew she didn’t. She was crushed because this was her last chance. There was no Plan B.
Head down, forlorn, she turned away from the ticket counter, just in time to hear a car beeping its horn as it pulled up at the curb in front of the terminal. As she looked up, her mom was jumping out of her car, hiking up her skirt and running to embrace her daughter.
Over the past two days, Chris had driven the 2,700 miles from Philly to LA. Her own tears were cleansing the dirt of Acacia’s life. She looked at her daughter, tears now streaming down both of their faces and said, “We’re going to the nicest steakhouse that LA has to offer.”
“But momma, we don’t have the money to afford that.”
“Nonsense honey, what I received today is incalculable. You can’t put a price on it. My daughter who was lost has been found. Nothing has more value to me than that.”
Pastor J.J. Gawlowicz