As writers, we can pay it forward by critiquing fellow-writers' work with kindness, supporting other new writers by buying their books, and bolstering each other up with encouraging words. I see this spirit of generosity every day in this blogging community. No one does it expecting anything in return - well, maybe some of us are obsessing over stats or book sales.
I had an opportunity yesterday to help someone selflessly, in a real way that mattered. I haven't had a lot of that kind of support in my life. But the few times I have, I remember it in detail. It mattered to me.
I got divorced about a year after I had my second child. I found myself single and working full time with full custody of one small child and one infant. Every day was ridiculously difficult, and I often got through on an hour by hour basis because I had no other choice. I had to pull myself out of bed every day, do everything my kids needed, go to work, come home, and take care of my kids again.
Did I mention I couldn't cook at that time in my life? We ate a lot of cereal and yogurt. I was broke and perfected the art of ordering relatively healthy food at restaurants that my kids and I could share for under ten dollars including the tip (not possible today).
One evening, just before my youngest turned three at a time when daily life was starting to feel less difficult, I fell down a flight of stairs. When I landed on the bottom after going airborne and bouncing twice, I couldn't get up. I had twisted two vertebrae and bruised the bones in my hip.
The police came to the house first. My little guy opened the door for him. The officer went door to door on a frigidly cold snowy evening in search of a neighbor that was willing to pick up my daughter from dance class. Several neighbors offered to take care of my son while I went to the hospital. The neighbors, none of whom I was friends with, figured out who would be the best person to pick up my daughter without freaking her out. They managed everything and even called my ex-husband to pick up my kids for the evening.
In the weeks following, my sister helped out with my kids. My son came home potty trained. One friend from work stopped by to take my youngest to daycare so I could rest. Another stopped by in the evenings to help out with the kids. An old friend came over and helped me clean my house when I was at the doctor's office. A very close friend, who is now my husband, drove across town whenever I needed groceries or just a gallon of milk.
Recovering from this injury took weeks and lots of physical therapy. I don't remember the daily recovery, but I do remember the details of how a few people helped me out because I really needed help.