We were standing in line at the food pantry, waiting for a few bags of groceries. My daughter was embarrassed to be there. I would have been too, but I was going through a divorce and wondering how I was going to recover from the heartbreak, support a kid, and get back on my feet with no job.
I didn’t feel like I belonged there, but when life pulls the rug out from under you, you find yourself in places you never thought you’d be. I’ve been on the other side too. It’s easy to look at people who are not doing as well as we are in any given moment and make judgments. We tell ourselves that people are homeless, or working the system or lazy when they’re really not looking for a hand out so much as a hand up.
Circumstances can change on a dime. A divorce can leave one homeless with kids, or living in a car with nothing but the clothes on your back. We were renting a small place in the country and I desperately wanted to hang onto it.
Even though I didn’t want to be standing in that line, it wasn’t the first time for me. I’m not too proud to ask for help when it looks like the bottom is falling out of life. More importantly, my kid needed to eat and needed to know that I had her best interests at heart. She was the one thing in my life I just could not lose. I had to keep it together somehow: A roof, heat, food. If I could do that, then the rest would probably work itself out.
God and I had just got acquainted a few years before and so far, it had been a bumpy ride. I read my bible hoping every word was true. That he was the same God that fed widows and orphans now as he did then. He didn’t fail me. A pass to the pantry was his provision.
I looked at my daughter and thought about how I’d feel being in a place like this with my mother. I had to tell her something. I was worried she’d want to live with her dad and I’d lose her.
“It won’t always be like this,” I said. “One day we’ll be able to go to the store and buy anything we want. We won’t even look at the price.”
I don’t know if she believed me that day, but over time things did change. They did get better. That first year was really hard on both of us. But I learned something that has stayed with me from then till now.
Every good thing is from God, and with that in mind, I’m grateful for every kindness. Some people paid my utilities. I was grateful. Another time, someone bought me a tank of heating oil. That winter, we were warm and grateful. A friend with unconventional ideas brought me a tree cut in two-foot chunks. I chopped it and got the work out of my life and we had firewood for two winters. (No one messes with a woman swinging an ax.) I leaped off the cliff of worry and fear and trusted God would catch me. Every time something good came, I was so grateful.
When a person gets so close to the edge that you can see how easy it would be to slip through the cracks, you learn to be happy for the smallest thing.
Your favorite song on the radio.
A warm bed.
Even now, I’m grateful for friends, a small apartment, a decent car. The love of my husband is very precious.
Thanksgiving has come and gone for a lot of people. But for me, it isn’t only one day. Gratitude is a lifestyle. It’s remembering to appreciate what we have right now. Thin times come and go, but so do riches. So might health, or family. We don’t know what’s around the very next corner. But I know that God provided, and all that he gave us was enough, it got us through. We’re stronger for it.
And I’m grateful for the lesson.
What are you grateful for? I’d love to hear from you.