Gain From My Pain


  • Author Mary Kaarto
  • Published November 26, 2010
  • Word count 900

During my second layoff (2002-04) as a single mother, I made the mistake of forgetting to buy a Christmas gift for two kids whom I love a great deal, and what's worse, I forgot to tell my friends (the parents) I didn't have any extra money to do so. At the time, I'd also had an accident that left me in a lot of pain most of the time, hobbling around for 10 months not realizing I needed knee surgery. In addition to the stress of looking for work each day and the continuing humiliation of having to accept handouts, I also spent several hours a day offering practical help to another single mother with three kids and a serious case of MS (multiple sclerosis). If I wasn't taking her to the doctor an hour away, I was doing her housework/laundry/shopping/cooking because she was unable to move quite a bit of the time. I advocated for her tirelessly before well-known philanthropic leaders of our community for financial assistance, as her disability income and Medicare were often not enough to pay her bills. I was happy to do these things because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was my "assignment from God" during this time.

This particular Christmas season, she was suicidal and I was the only one who knew it. Her father was dead, her mother was in a nursing home w/Parkinson's disease, and she has no siblings. I cannot begin to express how much stress I was under because I felt (wrongly) responsible to keep her from intentionally overdosing on pain medication. Oh, and I also was a mother myself, and granted my daughter was a little older than she was during my first layoff, she was still a young woman attending a local college, working part-time and living at home. Do we ever outgrow the need for our mothers?

I had a lot on my mind, and was under a lot of pressure. The uncertainty of a layoff and how long will it last, is unbearable ... but then, you know this.

The Christmas gathering came and went, and later that evening I received an emotionally explosive phone call from the parents that lasted well over an hour. We're talking being put through a people shredder, if there was such a thing. Although I did my best to apologize and explain all I was going through, I don't believe they heard me through all the shouting and all the pain. They were incapable of truly hearing me; either that, or they didn't care.

Did I intend to forget to buy a gift for these kids? No! And, had I remembered, I know my friends would have given me money to do so or else bought something for them and put my name on it.

I was so distraught when I realized my mistake, and how much I had hurt them, that at 11:30 pm on a cold Dec. night I drove to a nearby 24-hour Walgreens and used grocery money to buy them gifts, wrapped them in my car, drove to their home and left them by the door along with a handwritten, heartfelt note of apology to the kids.

I cried all the way there, I cried all the way home and in fact cried off and on for several weeks.

It has never been my intention to ever hurt anyone, at any age, for any reason, least of all, two sweet children and their parents. I can understand why their feelings were so hurt, because Christmas is all about the kids having presents to open. When your kids hurt, you hurt. I can extend that ... when anyone I love, hurts ... I hurt.

Lesson Plan#1: If you are laid off and have no extra money for gifts, and you have children in your life that you normally buy gifts for, please stop right now and either call them or their parents to let them know that you are unable to provide gifts for the kids right now, and that you hope they understand. In my case, it wasn't as though I remembered the kids but assumed the parents would intervene or understand ... in my flawed humanity, I just flat out forgot. It didn't feel a lot like Christmas that year!

Lesson Plan #2: If by chance you're reading this, and you're not laid off but know someone who is, please remember to show them grace, love, mercy and forgiveness. Please take into consideration that your laid off loved one is under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure in just trying to compete for the few jobs there are available. Please understand that oftentimes, they may not be thinking clearly or acting rationally. Depression, fear, doubt, stress and anxiety will do that to even the strongest person. They - like me - would never in a million years, intentionally hurt you or your children. People who are laid off may often "say the wrong thing" or "do the wrong thing" ... give them a break, because they need it. Remember that what God gives, He can also take away, and He won't hesitate to teach you a few lessons of your own if you're not treating people right, esp. when they're already being kicked around by life.

By giving each other unconditional love, you've given the greatest gift under the Christmas tree this season.

Mary Aucoin Kaarto, Author & Guest Speaker of "HELP for the LAID OFF", is a former journalist who learned many valuable lessons during her two, 2-year layoffs.

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