Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Small Gesture Can Make A Huge Difference

One of my biggest fears as a mother is not being able to provide for my children. Given the current economic environment, and the fact that my employer is laying people off at an alarming rate, this fear is ever present.

But, I still do have my job. I am still able to provide for my family. Little has changed other than the cost-saving measures I have put in place over the last year. They are small things – like buying generic or store brands at the grocery store – but I believe that it can make a difference.

Two things happened this past weekend however to make this disastrous economy rear up and slap me in the face.

First, a friend of mine that is in her 50’s and who had worked for IBM for over 20 years was laid off. Her husband is in real estate, and not being the most eager beaver, almost never sells anything. That is nothing new, but now that my friend has lost her job, the meager amount her husband brings in barely buys the groceries.

My friend has searched and searched for a job with no luck. She is currently a sales clerk at a clothing store and bringing home minimum wage. The family is living on an equity line of credit, unable to plan for college for their high school senior daughter, and as she said, probably two months away from losing everything.

The second slap in the face happened when we posted something on freecycle.org. We had been going through stuff in our attic, including all our Christmas decorations, and decided that we had too many lights, cookie tins, stuffed Christmas animals and other general decorations. We decided to post these on freecyle.org and give them to the first person who responded. Within an hour, 55 people responded asking for the decorations. Each one had a story, and the stories were all very sad, e.g. “I’ve been laid off, can’t provide Christmas gifts for my children and the lights would make them so happy.”

Fifty five people in an hour – fifty five people who already know in April that they won't be able to provide Christmas – too many children to count who won’t know the joy of finding gifts from Santa – fifty five families who just want some lights to put a smile on the faces of those children. It made me want to go out and buy lights for everyone who responded (which of course I can’t do).

What I can do is to remember these events and do whatever I can to brighten each day for someone else. And I urge you to do the same thing.

It can be something small and simple – take some food to a foodbank, visit a neighbor who spends most of their time alone, call an old friend, help out at a homeless shelter, befriend a child in a group home. But I challenge you all to do something.

Even when times are bleak, I believe we can find ways to help others. I would love to hear your stories of helping….

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