Many of us have been on the receiving end of charity, even when we thought we’d never be in such a position. And women who have faced tough circumstances and emerged stronger than ever have long memories. Here are stories from some of our Mamiverse contributors who have been on the receiving end of charity, and now find ways to pay it forward.
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Anita Kirk: I came from a family of 12 kids. Twelve. My stepfather was horribly abusive to my mother and to several of us kids. It got so bad that one night a few weeks before Christmas, she held him at bay with a shotgun while she and the youngest of us escaped from the house with just the clothes on our backs. We went to a battered women’s shelter and were there for several weeks until she was able to contact family in another state who were willing to take us in.
As awful as the experience was, I’ll never forget going to sleep in that shelter cot and knowing we were safe. And on Christmas Day, the shelter staff and volunteers made sure each of us kids had a toy to unwrap and a festive dinner with music and dancing. They even gave my mom a present—a really elegant sweater, I remember.
Now that I’ve found some prosperity in life, I donate my time and money to a local shelter for abused women. And now that my kids are out of the house, that’s where my husband and I spend our Christmases, helping out, serving meals, and spreading a little joy to those who need it most.
Elizabeth Heath: I’ve never been on the receiving end of charity, but my mother had been, and a story she told me stuck with me always. She was a child during the Great Depression, and her family had nothing. She went to bed hungry often, and when her father could spare it, he’d buy them a 5 cent chocolate bar for she and her three siblings to share.
One Christmas, they had no presents and NO FOOD. Nothing. Then on Christmas Eve, they found on their doorstep a basket with a cooked pig’s head in it, along with fruit, bread, candy and other sweets. They knew a neighbor had dropped it off without saying anything. She said nothing had ever tasted so good to her.
We didn’t grow up wealthy, but we always had enough food to eat. But my mom never forgot being poor and hungry, and she instilled in me an appreciation for what I’ve got, and empathy for those who have nothing. Especially at the holidays, I don’t pass up an occasion to make a donation, buy a bag of groceries for a soup kitchen, or donate used clothes and blankets to a homeless shelter. And that’s all thanks to my mother.
Tanginika-Simone Cuascud: I have been the recipient of charity at various times in my life. When I was getting divorced, just 4 years ago, as a single mother without a job, I benefited from Catholic Charities and a local Catholic Church for support. They provided a counselor at no cost to me and two other guides to help me in the process of getting on my own two feet. The Women’s Center in Fort Worth, who helps battered women and their children, provided assistance also, at no charge. I could not have made it without them! I was desperate at the time and had no one to turn to as I have no family in TX. I was desperate enough to not let my pride get on the way although I felt like I should’ve not been in that position. I pay it forward by helping young Latinas get a college education and teaching them about assertiveness so they have more choices and better outcomes than if they just graduate high school and quit studying to work or get married. People need to know that charities are important and that any of us, regardless of our backgrounds and education may benefit from charity when we least expect it.