Driving home from grocery shopping this past weekend, I saw a well-dressed woman standing on a curb with a cardboard sign, begging for help.
It threw me off. All of it. Her clothes. Her well-kept appearance. The cardboard sign.
When we see a beggar on the street, they are typically dirty and in raggedy clothing. Maybe they reek of alcohol or tobacco or are high. You can tell they need help—much more than what is written on the sign. But without the cardboard sign, I would never have imagined this woman needed help. She seemed alright in this quick moment.
After taking that in, I immediately thought of myself—my five years ago self—struggling to make ends meet and needing every single kindness that came our way. We needed so much help. So much compassion was shown to my family and me individually.
My long-time friend, who is more like the sister I never had, and her husband got me a cell phone and subsidized it for quite a long while to help me function until I could "get on my feet." I can't tell you how many times I felt embarrassed for having such a nice phone when we were struggling so much.
Friends with children my children's ages would drop off hand-me-downs and fun random things to spruce up the house and vary our existence. Two of my friends, who are married, from before the divorce came to visit a few times to help paint, repair things, and show support. Family members have reached out to send treats on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day knowing how things go for single moms sometimes. One friend began paying for all of our movie and lunch outings. There have been numerous anonymous grocery drop-offs onto my front porch with every fun food item kids could want. Christmases have never been sparse since things went bad. Not one. And something I don't want to overlook mentioning are my scholarships through the university and how somehow they were always more than enough to meet my educational needs. It was as if I were getting paid to go to school.
It makes me cry just thinking about all of it. How timely it all was and has been. To be so thought of, so completely seen when you feel invisible. God watching over my children and me through the loving hands of friends, family, and strangers wanting to make life nice for us.
I have to also make mention of all of you—you who read and share this blog. You, too, have made life nice for us. You gave and continue to give me confidence to keep going. Confidence cheers and heals a broken heart. I keep writing on this crazy space of mine and feel so free and beloved here because of you. If I didn't have an audience by this point, I would have given up with all that I've been through. I'd believe that I don't have anything to say that anyone wants to hear. But we all know that's not true. You are somebody. Each of you. And I am grateful for every single one of you who appreciates my time and talent that I put forth to write my story in whatever form it takes here.
So, no, we never were starving. We never had to go without anything we truly needed. And we never were even close to homelessness. I have always had a running vehicle to get where I need to go to keep on keeping on. There has always been enough and to spare because of all the love and generosity of spirit that has touched our lives. It has felt almost and actually embarrassing at times to have so much when the numbers just didn't add up to having even half as much. In comparison, we have so much now that I hardly know what to do with it, well, except for all the bills that roll in, but still. You know what I mean.
I never had to put on a brave face and write on a cardboard sign. I never had to stand on the curb. And I owe every single person who ever helped us for that.