Text by Francesca “Franki” Taylor
In her book One Writer’s Beginnings, American short story writer and novelist Eudora Welty wrote: “Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. When their elders sit & begin, children are just waiting and hoping for a story come out, like a mouse from its hole.” The same can be said about me. I started reading at 3 years old, filling my childhood summers with twice-weekly trips to the library. Even then, I would take home as many books I could carry.
I didn’t have many friends growing up… Sometimes, I had none. So words became my allies, and learning how to join the correct words precisely was like discovering a mountain of gold. The power of words drew me toward Journalism and Communications. I don’t mean to deride teaching, health care, the law or hundreds of other noble professions. But I can’t imagine any of them giving me that inner jolt that hit me every time I wrote.
I majored in Broadcast Journalism at Texas Christian University, and after 3 internships and 2 part-time summer jobs in TV news and newspaper, I graduated and started looking for a full-time job. This will “date” my age, but when I was in university, the Internet was in its infancy and hard to access. Instead, I went to Career Services on campus and combed through entry-level job stacks, hoping one had my name on it.
The First Job
The selection was usually less than a dozen positions, and the closest one was over 3 states away. I racked my brain to figure out how I could afford fare to interviews and relocation expenses in any one of the other 49 states; I had no family or friends outside of Texas. So, in desperation, I settled for the only job I could find at $5.35 per hour. I worked there 10 years. During that time, my beloved mother suddenly died, and a plethora of personal and financial hardships sprung up year after year. I kept my eyes on the prize even as I battled through that difficult time, and landed my first job in television at a local news station about 20 years ago.
Like most first jobs in communications, it wasn’t glorious. It was part-time to start, entry level, and I needed to work two other part-time job seven days a week to survive. So I did. I slept in my car between shifts and carried a battery-powered alarm clock to make sure I was never late.
I learned a lot in that newsroom, more about people than about the industry. I’ll never forget the day when a fellow alumnus — who is an on-camera anchor — embarrassed me for no reason by bellowing loudly, “Wow, Fran, I can’t believe you’re still entry level after all these years! I thought you’d be the next Oprah by now! WHAT HAPPENED?!?!”
Her words cut like a knife. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would say something like that, much less how they could actually take pleasure in it. We had never been enemies, never competed for work. I had been stuck in my entry-level job for ten years out of college, and no one was more frustrated about that than I was. But, for whatever reason, this person felt the need to draw everyone’s attention to it. Some part of me feared that the competitive nature of this industry was guaranteed to bring out the worst in people.
The Last Job
I didn’t have to put up with her for too long, though. Nearly 12 years into my employment at that job, I was one of roughly 25 people that were laid off in the same day.
Flash forward to 2017. Another job, this time in the advertising industry. The money was nothing to brag about, but I thanked God daily that I was working steadily and had health benefits. I have always felt that it’s important to give back. This job gave me a chance to do that consistently. I continued giving to charities and even found a couple of places where I could volunteer from time-to-time.
It seemed like I had finally found a rhythm.
On August 2, 2018, I walked into the office like any other day. I was about 10 minutes early, as always, so I made a small bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee and started to work. My supervisor leaned over the wall of my cubicle and asked me to come into the conference room. His immediate manager was also in the room, and he held a 9 x 12 manila envelope in his hands.
Them: “Um, Fran, (blah, blah, blah) today is your last day.”
Me: “What did I do?”
Them: “We’re not going to answer any questions; you know, uh, understand this is a done deal. You’ve got 5 minutes to take as much of your belongings you can carry, give us any file drawer keys and your employee key card, and leave the premises. Good luck!”
A New Challenge
The drive home felt like an hour instead of the typical 30 minutes. My stomach churned, my arms felt like lead, my head pounded and my body felt like a million ants were stinging me from head to feet. As I opened the door to my apartment — which I had locked for the day less than an hour ago — I couldn’t figure who I should call first; my sister in Scottsdale, AZ or my brother in Arlington, TX.
I realized that I had only worked 4 days out of a typical two-week pay period, and although I had already paid my rent and made my car payment, some of my other expenses — including utilities and food — had been deferred to the upcoming paycheck. At that point, I had been eating only twice a day. It would get even leaner now.
I went to the Texas Workforce Commission to file for Unemployment Compensation and look for work. The next day I called 2-1-1 to get phone numbers of agencies that may be able to help me. One of them was 6 Stones. In the past 4 years I’ve lived in Bedford, I’d driven by the building plenty of times. I had never been inside, but a year ago I sent a donation in support of Operation Back 2 School.
My heart demands that I live charitably. I’ve always felt compelled to give in support of those in need, whether it was my family, churches, organizations, or causes… usually, it was a combination. As a child, I believed, and still believe, that there is always someone out there who is having things worse than I am.
Sometimes I would roll pennies for the homeless or give my lunch money to sponsor humanitarian aid for orphans or impoverished countries. Last year, I received correspondence from an organization letting me know I’ve been contributing their cause for 29 years.
Naturally, I struggled with the idea that I would now be the one asking for help.
The New Hope Center
The next Wednesday, I walked into 6 Stones with my head down. I’ve always been able to carry my own weight and help others, but that day, I was hungry. The waiting room was full to capacity. People lined the sidewalk outside, walking with active toddlers and talking on cell phones. I took a clipboard as a kind woman asked me if I was here to get food.
I stammered out a “no ma’am,” and put the clipboard back on the desk. Then I walked outside, looked up the sky, and prayed, “Lord, these children and parents need this food a lot more than I do. I can’t take food from a hungry child or a parent trying to work with an empty stomach. I’ll find something to pawn.”
I went back into the building and told another woman that I would like to volunteer for 6 Stones. She told me to come back on Saturday at 9 a.m. I wanted to leave it there, but the volunteers wouldn’t let me run away. They made sure I took food home, even if my pride insisted that I didn’t need it. I’m glad they did.
Good and Faithful
Some people throw away more food than they can eat in 3 lifetimes. Some barely get by. Many have nothing at all. I have a heart for those who have nothing; my eldest brother died 9 years ago, homeless and hungry.
I give donations and I volunteer because I refuse to forget those who need so much and have so little. I’m fortunate to have been raised believing in My Father in Heaven. Someday, I want Him to tell me these words, found in Matthew 25:21: “'Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
So, for now, I am in need, but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep giving back. As far as I can see, this is the beginning of my testimony.