Despite her own struggles, she used Facebook and Instagram to help people in need all across the country.
Posted in , Dec 27, 2020
Slowly this time, I reread the email on my phone. “We’re going to be evicted from our apartment unless we can come up with $1,000 in four hours. If there’s any way you could help, we’d be so grateful.” Teresa, a woman I’d never met, had sent it to me in New Jersey—from Maryland. She’d lost her legs in an auto accident. Every day was a struggle for her and her husband. It broke my heart.
It was 2017 and I’d told a few friends I wanted to do something good for people in need, to feel as if I was making a difference in this world. Word had spread, and thus this e-mail. But it was too much. One thousand dollars? In a single afternoon. It might as well have been a million dollars.
I was barely getting by myself. A 30-year-old single mom, raising a seven-year-old son with nonverbal autism. Laid off from my job. That’s why Teresa’s plea hit me so hard. I knew what it was like to feel helpless, unable to afford even the most basic necessities. Nowhere to turn. The walls closing in. I’d been there only a year before.
King, my sweet, beautiful baby, wouldn’t eat, not without a lot of coaxing, at least. There was something wrong. He wasn’t talking, not even to say mama. No babbling. He seemed barely aware of the world around him. But the doctors wouldn’t commit to a diagnosis. “Some children are slow in developing,” was all they could tell me.
I worried about King and prayed constantly. The strain of trying to pay my bills with an unemployment check of $219 a week weighed on me. There were times I went without eating to make sure there would be enough money for King’s formula and diapers. But it was a hopeless juggling act. Inevitably, I found myself down to just a handful of diapers and a couple of days’ worth of formula. My next unemployment check wouldn’t make it to my bank account nearly soon enough. My friends and family were struggling too, and they didn’t have anything extra to lend me.
I spent an entire day calling every agency I could think of. Either no one answered the phone or there was a recording asking me to leave a message. I finally reached someone who offered to help. “We have a form you can fill out for emergency aid,” the woman said. “If you qualify, we can get you a voucher in about two weeks.”
“Two weeks? I can’t wait that long.”
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “That’s all I can do.”
It was time to feed King. I measured out the formula, wondering what I would do when the can was empty. I’d always prided myself on earning my own way. I’d even started taking college courses, hoping to earn an associate’s degree in nursing. But I’d had to drop out for financial reasons. I still owed $768 in tuition. Who knew when I’d ever be able to go back? I was beginning to realize it wasn’t enough to work hard. I needed help, an angel of mercy who could pull off some kind of instant miracle. Like that was going to happen. I’d called every number on my list.
In desperation I vented my frustration on Facebook. “What do people do in these situations?” I asked. “Is there nowhere I can go?” I’d collected about 1,000 friends on Facebook over the years, but the number of them I had any interaction with was far smaller. Like most people. Social media was just a way for me to unwind at the end of another long day. An outpouring of heart emojis was about all the reply I expected.
But within a few minutes someone posted a response, a link to a Facebook group that connected people in need with others who wanted to help. It seemed like a stretch to think I’d find a stranger online who wanted to buy diapers for me, but I was out of options.
I found the site and explained my situation. “I wouldn’t even be asking if it weren’t for my baby,” I wrote. “I’m grateful just for the chance to be heard.” I said a prayer as I hit “post,” hoping my note would touch someone’s heart.
Not an hour later I got a response from a woman in Seattle. Then another woman, in Michigan. Then two more women. “You’re not alone,” one wrote. “I’m sending diapers and the formula you need by overnight mail.” The other women also wanted to help, but more than that they were interested in me as a person and my dream of becoming a nurse.
They felt like angels. Sent by God to watch over me, my physical needs, my self confidence, my entire outlook on life. I’d never met any of these women, and yet their love and support made me feel as if anything was possible. As if they were literally holding me, lifting me up.
“You have so much potential,” one of the women wrote after we’d e-mailed each other for several days. “I want to help you with college. If you register, I’ll pay your tuition.”
I explained about the debt I already owed the college. “No worries,” she wrote. “I’m happy to cover that too.”
Her generosity, her faith in me, was humbling. But it helped me see myself differently too. I didn’t want just to be the blessed recipient of kindnesses. I wanted to bless others with kindness as well. Maybe I wasn’t able to give money, but I had seen the value of connection, one hand reaching out to another. It didn’t cost anything to spread the word of need. To be a resource. It seemed like the least I could do.
Now here I was with an email on my phone, a call for help that seemed impossible to answer, a plea for an instant miracle like the one I’d needed. It had been a year since I’d connected with the four angels who had given me a lifeline. I was back in college, taking two courses at a time. I’d landed a few temp jobs here and there, enough to keep the bills paid. King’s formal diagnosis had confirmed he’d always need me to care for him, but things were more stable for me now, enough that I’d felt I was in a position to extend any support I could to others. But finding $1,000 in four hours was a need I hadn’t imagined.
I replied to Teresa in Maryland, and asked to see the letter of eviction and the rent bill. I wanted to be able to say I’d verified the need. The proof came back in seconds. I went to Facebook and wrote a short plea: “Maryland couple facing eviction today. Needs $1,000 in four hours. Can you help? Every donation matters.”
I posted my plea, wishing I could have swooped in like the angel who had helped me get back to college. I put my phone down and attended to King. Within a minute I heard a ping. A friend wanted to give $20. Seconds later, another ping. Another $20. Then $50. $100! A flood of notifications. In an hour, voices were heard from across the country. Soon the entire $1,000 was raised. A miracle.
“Thanks to everyone who gave,” I posted. “Your gift truly makes a difference.”
When I called Teresa to tell her the rent was paid, she was stunned. “You’re amazing,” she said. “Like a fairy that flies around helping people. I don’t know how to thank you.”
A fairy—I liked the sound of that. I imagined a Black fairy godmother, kind, caring, always near. Spreading love across the world. Not only money, but love. I was just a handy messenger, calling on the angels that are everywhere among us.
I adopted the name Black Fairy Godmother for my posts about individuals in need. It seemed people couldn’t get enough of this fairy godmother with a persona all her own. I was still just Simone on Facebook, with struggles and challenges like any other person. But Black Fairy Godmother? She never got tired, never got down. There was no stopping her. So I set up her own Instagram account, @theblackfairygodmotherofficial. We got requests for assistance with rent, medicine, medical bills and groceries, sometimes four or five a day. With every post, the 100 or so followers responded. Their generosity blew me away. Folks asked me how I kept up, between caring for King, going to school and working, but it was seeing the response of the public and the joy of the recipients that kept me going, a shot of inspiration every day via Instagram. I was part of something way bigger than myself. I’d never felt more blessed.
A few months into the Instagram project, two women, both best-selling authors, saw the Black Fairy Godmother site and shared it. Almost overnight, tens of thousands of people, mostly women, began following. The pleas for help increased as well. A dozen women from across the country volunteered to help me vet the requests. Every dollar contributed goes to someone in need.
I’ve learned that angels come in many forms, different races, religions and income groups, from big cities and rural towns. They’re united by a love for all God’s children. Miracle workers, one and all.
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