This morning, the first entry I read from my feed reader was Gather Little By Little’s post Do You Appreciate What You Have? It made me mist up a little. It also reminded me of my own moment of gratitude this past week.
When I was in high school…. I lived in a homeless shelter with my oldest daughter for 3 months. It wasn’t the easiest time of my life, but I managed. I remember having nothing more than our clothes and her playpen when we went there… and when we left to stay in our first “home”. I also remember the college students who did their community service volunteer hours there.
Years later, I moved out of the home I shared with my first husband, with three children under the age of 8 and what we could fit in the trunk of a Geo Prism. Starting over again reminded me of how much further along I’d hoped to be by then. But, we muddled through and did alright.
Lately, I’ve been looking around our home at all of the clutter and excess that we’ve accumulated over the years. Too many clothes. Too many books. We’ve gathered huge boxes and garbage bags full of things we no longer want or need and they sat on our porch… growing every time we thinned the closets a bit more… Forever it seems.
I’ve been talking about getting free things at the stores with my coupons, just because I can. Those have been sitting to the side… toothpaste, shampoos, conditioners, baby soaps, non-perishable foods we don’t eat… I’ve been mulling over whether to have a yard sale or just donate everything to the YWCA.
On Friday, my mother called. The daughter of her roommates had been thrown out of her home … with 4 children under the age of 8 … and were living in a camper in her driveway. The woman and children had no clothes except what they wore when they left home. It’s starting to get cold at night here. My heart lurched in my chest and my memories caught up with me with a speed I didn’t know my brain could work.
I told her that we had a TON of things they could come over and go through. They were free to have whatever they could make use of. The children’s grandmother came over with my mom… and went through every box and every bag. The sizes (that my girls had grown out of) were all perfect. They took every box. Every bag. I gathered up all of the toiletries and food items. I even hit up my stockpile in the pantry and pulled out cereal, pasta, peanut butter, and a few packages of meat to send along. When my daughters found out that the children had no blankets… they gathered all of their old sleeping bags and proclaimed themselves “too old for these”… and tossed them into the boxes to go along.
As she sat on the porch, listening to her roommate talk about how receiving all of our discarded clothes felt like Christmas morning … and she couldn’t wait to get them home to her daughter to show her that she the children now had more than the clothes on her back… my mother’s eyes filled with tears and she nodded at me. All those times that my children received hand-me-downs from people when I was a single mom, struggling to provide, flashed back to both of us. All those times that we, as children, received hand-me-downs and donations when my mom was a single mom, struggling to provide, flashed back to both of us.
My mother and I do not get along. We never have. But, in that moment, we were the same. People who had struggled along with nothing for a time, and who were now in a position to help someone out the same way we were helped so many times.
I am grateful that I have so very much in my life. I am grateful that I was able to return the good will that was shown to me over and over again through my lifetime. Thank you, GLBLGuy! I am grateful that your article prompted me to share my experience too.