So the holidays have always reminded me of just how hard working my parents were and are. It reminds me of how blessed I really am. It’s no secret that at one point my family and I lived in a shelter. I look at my children and they will never understand what that looks like or feels like. My mom didn’t allow me to feel ashamed or embarrassed. She let me know that I didn’t have to look like what I was going through. As I became a parent I like most wanted to go back to my childhood when I didn’t have bills. As much as I wanted to be “grown” even in struggle it was easier than having to make the financial decisions to get a family through. Where are the days when my mom said, my only job was to get good grades? I sure would sign up to be in Ms. Dickinson’s class again with no cares.
My mom worked hard. She took a bus to get us to the sitter and then often times would walk to work. She then walked to pick us up and on the bus we went home. When my parents married it was both of them working hard regardless of being sick, tired, or frustrated. I remember my mom even taking a 3rd shift job working in a cookie factory. She and my dad did what it took to keep the roof over our head and food in our bellies. My parents probably had days like I have had when tears filled my eyes because I was either not working or working just to bring in an income. Either way if they could get through with grace then when I’m tired and frustrated so could I.
So as the holiday comes with shopping and giving I never forget where I came from. I am an extreme couponer. I’m no where like some of the others I know but for what I save for my family I’m doing well. Better yet it has caused me to keep my family humble. I do not take for granted that some families don’t even have the ability to tap into gift giving for being in survival mode. For that reason I make sure that my kids understand that and give to others all year round.
Today I was humbled by someone giving to my family. The last time I saw that type of generosity was when I lived in the shelter. Organizations would always donate gifts and toys. But when you have so much going on and someone stops and blesses you it’s mind blowing. I explained to my oldest today that the things we have doesn’t just appear. It comes from hare work and the heart of others giving. We are as a family in the process of paying it forward. We do it all year round but we especially find a way to do it around the holidays. I can’t remember one holiday when I didn’t get anything. My parents made sure. Even if that meant standing in line at places like Salvation Army for assistance.
In the shelter I didn’t even know how broke and blessed I was until I became a parent. I remembered having my oldest and saving and buying while pregnant to avoid not having diapers and wipes. I remember moving money around to cover unexpected expenses. I often think what my life would have looked like had my parents hadn’t shown me what struggle looked like. I know as an adult that times will get hard. Although I don’t have to stress as much as my parents did, I do have my own sense of knowledge that hard times produce strong people.
The holidays when my dad was getting gifts out of the locked shed (he didn’t know we found his hiding spot) doing the Santa Claus laugh, I wonder now what was going on in his mind. Was he like me at times making sure bills were paid and getting gifts even when things may have been tight? Was he over worked and tired as he picked up toys from layaway? Again as a parent you “understand” like my grandma would say.
To all of the parents that are struggling and even at times getting gifts with hours to spare because you only had one check after bills were paid, I salute you.
This will not be your story forever. Your kids will grow up to do like I pray mine will, to understand that being broke and happy is a possibility. To know that you may not have all that you want but you have what you need. To be grateful for their portion. To grow up and work hard not just to buy gifts but have a heart to bless others. I would admonish every reader to find someone to be a blessing to. I know times are hard but trust me there is someone who will be blessed in more ways than one. Even something small can be something great.
To my parents thank you. I know you told me I would get it but like a typical child I just said it was crazy talk, but I get it now. You both have taught me a great lesson and I want you both to know every holiday since becoming a parent and even after college I’ve seen life in a different light. I know no matter the struggle, making good choices and doing what has to be done first will always leave the door for blessings to come my way.
To my husband who works hard to make sure that the things I need and want are there, I salute you. You and my dad come from 2 different backgrounds but I’ve seen the same push to do whatever hard work could produce for our family.
Please don’t spend so much time shopping for small moments that you one neglect your responsibilities. My parents provided and we had good Christmas memories but we were able to enjoy them with the lights still on. Stay grounded and give to others. You don’t have to make a spectacle but you can be a blessing.