Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Easing Hard Days for Others

I know Buddy the Elf says that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear, and he's got a point, however, I also recommend doing small acts of kindness. This week I had the opportunity to do small things for a few people who have done kind things for me in the past, and that was wonderful. It has been hard for me to be on the receiving end so much all these years. I love to do things for other people, but even if I made things mailing them off to friends was beyond our means or added to our family's financial stress. It's hard to describe the awesomeness of being able to mail off packages to friends! Yesterday I did just that, and I have hopes and plans for doing it more in the future. It's a clear sign that our financial situation is slowly getting better! Doing things for friends, especially for friends whose kindness you are repaying, is a particular kind of warm fuzzy feeling. That said, I love doing things for strangers at least as much, and probably more. 

Yesterday, as I stood in line to mail my packages, I realized the man behind me was empty handed. It turned out he was only buying stamps, while I had four packages to mail as well as stamps to buy. I let him go ahead of me. This is something I try to do whenever I am not in a huge hurry. And really, I'm rarely in so much of a hurry that I can't let someone go ahead of me in line if they have a few items and I have a cart full. My husband called me just as it was my turn to buy postage, so I let the woman behind me go next while I took the call. She needed to get to work so that helped her day go more smoothly.  

Later in the day we went to the airport to pick up my daughter's boyfriend. This is the busiest travel week of the year. The airport was packed full of people, at least half of whom were carrying a baby and/or holding the hand of a small child. The other half were travelling with dogs. That's a slight exaggeration, but the level of adorableness at the airport was at an all time high. I spend a ridiculous amount of time dropping people off and picking them up at the airport for a person who hasn't flown anywhere in over two years, so I'm familiar with the average level of adorableness at our airport.

While we were waiting for the luggage to show up on the carousel, a young woman approached one of my kids, asking for help. She was holding a credit card in her hand and spoke with great hesitation, English was clearly not her first language. My kid brought her to my attention. She was trying to get a luggage cart from the rental rack. Next to her I saw a huge box, 3 feet square, a large suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. As I tried to help her I found that her card was being denied. There was no way she was getting her luggage anywhere without a cart. I pulled out my card, swiped it, and helped her get a cart. Together we loaded the box, the suitcase, and the backpack onto the cart. She said her uncle was meeting her and I pointed her toward the doors that lead to the arrivals pickup area. It wasn't much, but in the past I would have been stressed about that $5, it would have been too much out of our budget for me to offer help without hesitation. As much as I love showing small kindnesses to other people, I know part of my good feeling comes from feeling financially secure enough to spend $5 on a stranger. It's not something I can do all the time, but now and then it won't add to my family's financial burden. It's hard when you want to do nice things for others but you lack the resources to make it possible. I'm so excited that with this holiday season I am also celebrating the beginning of a new phase for our family, a time when we can start giving back. The ability to pay forward the kindnesses that others have show us in the past, even in small ways, is something I am incredibly thankful for. I hope you'll join me in looking for little ways you can spread kindness in the world. It doesn't take much to brighten someone's day or decrease their stress level a little. 

All the Hard Days

This morning I was going to post something on facebook, and then decided to expand on the idea and write a quick blog post. While signing in to my account I saw the date on my last post, May 30, 2015. Some days are hard. There are the times when every day is hard and you are so busy surviving you barely have the time and energy to realize how difficult things have gotten. The past seven months have been just that. The struggles have been too personal to share, the challenges have been so great that often I couldn't even reach out and ask for support. And really, we've asked for, and gotten, so much support and help over the past 3 plus years, since my husband was laid off, that it felt greedy to ask for support when so many other people we know were struggling. And really, it was starting to feel like people were tired of being there for me, that my need for support had exceeded the ability of others to tolerate the depth and length of my string of hard days. 

But here I am, blogging. It's two days before Christmas. I will admit to being completely exhausted and emotionally raw. My To Do List is still rather long, but I'm accepting that some things won't get done and really, after the year we've had, I've done a lot! I probably don't have time to blog, but I have the desire, and that is something that has been missing. 

We are still in the midst of change and upheaval, but things are getting better:

For the past two months we've had a homeless teenager living with us. She now has a job, and last weekend she moved off our couch and into a shared apartment. 

For the past year we've had my daughter's boyfriend living with us, and this week he is moving out to his own apartment. In January he's starting classes at the community college! 

For my husband's entire career he has been under appreciated and under paid. The last three years he's been unemployed or seriously underemployed. In October he was hired by a wonderful organization as a member of their executive team. His new job is challenging, and involves some not very fun stuff, but he really likes his job! He feels appreciated and his work is meaningful. 

We have a long way to go before we are solidly on our feet financially, but for the first time in a very long time I know we can pay all the bills all the time, and still have money for socks and underwear. 

There are still on going challenges, there are still really hard days, and I'll admit that it's hard to believe that things are actually better and going to stay better. Things have been hard for so long that I'm really afraid of believing that we are finally climbing out of the pit of desperation and back up to the land of people who get to live life, not just struggle to survive. 

I'm so hopeful, and yet so afraid that all  the needs and repairs and things that need replacing are going to make staying in this more positive place impossible. But like I said, I'm hopeful! And hope has always been something I was good at holding onto, always the optimist, but hope is also something that I was beginning to lose sight of in all the struggles.

One of the best parts of things getting better is this: now I can be someone who supports other people. (That doesn't mean I don't still need support, believe me, I do!) Doing things for others has always brought me joy, and it's nice to have a little bit of that joy back in my life. 

My next blog post will share more about doing things for other people, I hope you'll come back to read it.