Brown Paper Bag of Hope

This post was written as part of a special holiday Blog Carnival hosted on Blog Nosh Magazine and was sponsored by the Tide Loads of Hope program (Hi FTC! *wave*). 

Sometimes, we're so far beyond done. We run out of hope. It's in those times that we need others to remind us that there is still good in the world. That there is a sun in the sky and that we must lift our faces to it.

The other night, my son cut me to the quick. I had been so busy that I had ignored all his pleas for some family time. He finally looked up at me with glassy eyes, trying to stoicly hold back tears, and said, "Sometimes, people say they love you but they don't really love you if they don't show you they love you. You have to show people you love them." You know that within thirty seconds I was on the floor hugging him and playing the game he had set up hours earlier hoping for a little time together.

His words sat with me all night. While I was nodding off to bed, I thought of a time when I had love, not merely spoken to me, but demonstrated. It was a time in my life that I had not yet realized what you could live through. I was too young to understand that, if I held out long enough, things would indeed change. I was tired and had lost all hope that things would ever be any different.

When I was a young single mother, I had plenty of struggles. Some seasons were tougher than others, but it was during the holidays that I saw the cold, harsh reality of my circumstances. One year in particular, I wasn't really sure we were going to have a Christmas. During that time, my oldest daughter wore a uniform to her public school. It was a uniform-optional school. It sounded like a good idea until the school year started and I realized that only the poor families had opted for a uniform. My daughter didn't mind. She thought her dress was pretty and loved the matching bow. Every day, I would dress my younger daughter in her uniform of hand-me-downs. She didn't mind because she saw her big sister's clothes as new to her. And every day, I would put on my waitress uniform. I didn't mind because I didn't have to worry about what to wear. Every morning, we'd pile into my old, rickety car... the car my friends lovingly referred to as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We were a sight, the three of us. Most of the time, we were happy. The kids were too young still to know what they were missing.

Still... I knew.

I had worked so hard that year. Unfortunately, I had one emergency after another... car troubles, medical bills, school loans coming due. I tried not to think about it, but as the days drew closer, I began to fall into a deep depression about not being able to buy the kids even a few gifts for Christmas. Then, on the last Friday before winter break, I went to the school to pick up the kids. It was just under a week before the big day. If you would've seen me that afternoon,  you would have seen a young woman, shoulders slumped, looking beat down by life.

Up walked the school nurse.

She had a strange look on her face. One that made my paranoid mommy brain go straight to panic mode. I thought something might have happened to the kids. She got that panicked mommy response a lot, apparently, because she assured me right away that nothing was wrong. So then what was that awkward look on her face? And what was in the bag that she was holding? She stammered a bit, trying to find words...

"Every year... we try to... we choose families from the free lunch program... some items were donated..."  

I looked at the bag and then the nurse and then the bag again. I must have been exhausted because I couldn't understand what was happening. I remember thinking, Wow, this woman needs a vacation because she isn't making any sense! Then I realized I had not said a word nor had I accepted the bag she had been trying to hand me. I was still trying to figure out what she was talking about and why she kept trying to hand me that large brown grocery bag. Then I saw a wrapped gift on top of several other wrapped gifts in the bag. The tag on the gift had some writing. 

"Little Girl - 6"

That's when I understood that we had been adopted. Us. Our family. We were now one of the families that other families helped. For a moment, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I couldn't provide the simplest things for my children. I looked at the nurse who was running out of things to say and seemed to be getting more uncomfortable by the second. I looked back down at the bag again and cried. This was one of God's little miracles! My lips were trembling as I told her, "I didn't think we were going to have a Christmas this year." Her face softened from worry to relief as I accepted the bag. The thought of my kids having gifts to unwrap that year was nice, but knowing that strangers helped a mom in need was simply amazing.

Christmas would have come that year whether we had gifts or not. The date would have arrived no matter what was under the tree. The year that life had beat me down turned out to be one of the best seasons of my life. It was the year that I had lost all hope AND It was the year that I got the gift of hope back through the kindness of strangers.

Like my son said...

"You have to show people you love them."

Loads of Hope for the Holidays

Please join us at Blog Nosh Magazine as we share stories of hope this holiday season in support of the Tide Loads of Hope program, a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters. 

Share your own stories of hope, along with Blog Nosh Magazine, Velveteen Mind, and a gathering of inspiring bloggers, and enter your own post link in the blog carnival below.  Visit Blog Nosh Magazine to explore featured bloggers as well as three featured posts selected from carnival participants listed in the linky (that could be yo u!).

Lend your voices now, then participate live during a two day event in New Orleans, Sunday and Monday, December 13 and 14, as we tweet stories of resilience from laundry recipients and volunteers on the ground.  Follow along on twitter via #loadsofhope and be sure to follow @TideLoadsofHope

Learn more about how you can extend hope to families affected by disasters by visiting

Blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh Magazine, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope.

How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?

1. Blog Nosh Magazine 2. Secret Agent Mama
3. Hope, Full 4. My Home Sweet Home
5. AnnieBlogs 6. A Top Chef Kind of Hope
7. Hope by Maggie, dammit 8. Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy
9. Hope Floats. And So Does Root Beer. 10. Sugar Jones' Brown Bag of Hope
11. Holley ~ A Different Kind of Hope  

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