Whether it’s not being able to buy another jug of milk for her growing boys, take them for a treat at Timmy’s, or fulfil their desire for the latest electronic device at Christmas — it’s all hard.
Naomi Race, 44, vowed she would offer her children more than her mother — who gave birth at the age of 14 — did to her.
“She did what she could, but we didn’t have that much,” Race said of her mother, who died in April. “I followed in her footsteps.”
A learning disability has impacted her ability to work — and to help her children with their struggles and schoolwork. She says it also brings judgment from others.
“I feel a lot smaller than I what I really am and that makes it harder,” Race said.
Her boys, 15 and 11, “are always eating more, drinking more milk,” and at Christmas want what other kids seem to have — smartphones, tablets and video games.
“It’s a struggle at Christmas,” she said. They know she can’t fulfil their requests, “but they still ask.”
More than 10 years ago, her husband of 22 years had a series of mental-health breakdowns, Race said. Together, their disability cheques bring in $1,100 a month. Of that, $620 goes to rent, she said.
Decorating a window in her subsidized townhouse on Blanshard Street this week, she started to cry.
“Christmas is just too hard for me. It’s just trying putting it all together. Figuring out where the stuff is going to come from and what to do to make the kids happy.”
Living in Port Alberni and Sooke, Race was receiving disability benefits when she finished high school. After meeting her husband, she moved to Victoria and began using the Salvation Army the “odd time” to receive groceries and other support.
The Salvation Army is one of the agencies the Times Colonist works with through its Christmas Fund.
When it looked like her son couldn’t attend a summer camp this year, the Salvation Army helped her out. When there was no money for cat food, they were there. And this past Mother’s Day, after she lost her mom, she was given a gift certificate to buy clothes from the thrift store, get her hair cut and, with other mothers, attend a “high-class tea.” She loved that.
She’s also received Christmas hampers and Christmas presents for her children.
“They help so much,” she said.
Recently, Race began working part time as a nanny to bring in extra money and allow her to be less reliant on the Salvation Army.
She isn’t complaining about her lot in life and said she is grateful for those who have been there to help. She sees others struggling financially who don’t have the riches she does — two boys and a husband.
“I see what they don’t have compared to what I have,” she said.
In addition to her mother, Race has lost a grandmother and aunt in the past year. She calls the Salvation Army “family.”
Race knows Salvation Army community relations co-ordinator Sipili Molia well. He ensured her boys had back-to-school backpacks full of essentials in September and saw to it that her son could attend summer camp, she said.
“When you have to make a choice between taking your children to Timmy’s or buying milk, that makes my job way more important,” Molia said.
He said it’s the stories of “brokeness” that are the hardest to bear.
He talks of people bearing the challenges we all face who are broken by the further daily indignities that poverty and mental and physical health problems can present. In many of these cases, love can slip away and deep hurt can settle in, he said.
“There’s so many layers,” Molia said. “It’s just the darkness. When these things start piling up, it’s hard for people to dig themselves back out.”
It’s especially hard on the kids, he said, adding that the playing field should be level for all.
“I’ve got kids, so that always gets me.”
For those people, the Salvation Army provides clinical counselling along with life- and employment-skills training. They meet people where they are in life and go from there, Molia said.
Molia is a father of four and knows how hard it is even for his family, with two working parents, to provide for their kids.
He is encouraged by the charity he sees.
“Victoria is really good at giving, and if they knew more of these people’s stories, they’d probably even give more.”
Donating to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund
The Times Colonist Christmas Fund assists individuals and families in need during the Christmas season through Mustard Seed Street Church and the Salvation Army. Here are ways to donate:
• Go to timescolonist.com/donate. That takes you to the Canada Helps website, which is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.
• Mail a cheque, payable to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund Society, to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C. V8T 4M2.
• Use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Leave a message outside those hours.