By Maresa Kelleher
35 days. That’s how long the government shut down for in 2018 to 2019. 35 days of
uncertainty. 35 days of furloughs for some government workers. For 42,000, such as our family, 35 days of not knowing what the future held. You see, my husband is active-duty Coast Guard and because of where the branch falls within the government confines, when there is a shutdown, his pay is suspended until a resolution can be found and yet, he still has to work. In his almost 18 years in, we had never experienced this before.
We had only been at our new duty station for a few months when all this unfolded. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t have a home church yet, and we were about 800 miles away from any family. We were still recouping some of our moving costs from our last duty station in Massachusetts, replacing things the movers had broken, and this was right after Christmas and money was already tight. I had also just spent hundreds on a boxed curriculum set that I thought was the “perfect” answer to beginning homeschooling and was very quickly realizing it wasn’t (that is a whole other blog topic).
So, when the government shut down, to say we weren’t in a good place financially would be an understatement. Groceries in Virginia can be expensive and feeding 3 growing preteens, us, and our dog, was a financial mountain, to say the least. Then, the realization of not being paid hit us, after that missed check. The people who were “in charge” had failed us, we had failed ourselves with our lack of savings, and things were quickly spiraling. Family offered to send money, but we didn’t want to be someone else’s burden. Then the local units and the gracious people of the neighborhood stepped in.
We may have lived in Virginia, but my husband was stationed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. It proudly is recognized as a Coast Guard City, which means they go above and beyond to help those local Coastie’s stationed in their area. We found out just what that meant.
The local Chief Petty Officer Association chapter in the Coast Guard began building a food pantry for those Coast Guard and government workers who were affected by the shutdown. They began getting flooded with donations from the local Food Bank, businesses, and other local civilians, who saw a real need and wanted to fill it. This food pantry was stocked full of fresh items, canned goods, toiletries, pet food, baby items, everything that was needed to keep families going. There were 42,000 Coast Guard members who had missed a paycheck, so the word was getting around quickly. But it was a food pantry, only used by those who are worse off than us. Surely, we weren’t in THAT bad of a situation to need that, right? Well, then we opened our cupboards at home and quickly realized, we indeed needed help. So, we went. Our pride bruised, our ego’s deflated, and we were immediately humbled.
As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with the utmost kindness and understanding. There were families, just like us, all around. It didn’t matter what rank you or your spouse were, it didn’t matter if they thought we should have “done better”, it didn’t even matter if we had groceries at home. If you felt you needed the extra help, they were happy to provide it. They loaded us up not once, not twice, but 3 times during that 35-day period. No questions asked, besides what kind of cereal would the kids want (which is always a hot topic of debate). Plus, my husband began to volunteer his time there when he was off, and always came home with something at the urging of those in charge.
You see, God used that shutdown as a way to remind our family that He always provides. It may not be in the way that we think or even want, but He will ALWAYS provide. We never thought that we would find ourselves in the situation to need that type of help. I don’t think that anyone does. Sometimes, life just happens to us. It is up to us to find God in those moments, in those storms, and seek His help. Maybe that comes in the form of asking family for help, maybe, like us, it is visiting the local food bank to just get by until things even out. Don’t let pride get in the way of accepting the provisions God is providing. No matter what they look like. This holiday season, remember those in need. They may be the low-income family down the street or on the corner, or they could be the very neighbor who would give you the shirt off their back, if you needed it, or it may even be you.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you need it. EVERYONE deserves food security.
Maresa Kelleher is a homeschooling mom of three teenagers and a military wife of almost 18 years and recently just failed at fostering and is now a proud fur mama of 3 dogs. She spends her days planning her kids next gross science experiment or finding ways to memorize random facts, such as learning all the Presidents in order, or talking in movie quotes with her family. Her and her family love to give back to each of the communities they move to, and you can usually find them hiking or enjoying a nice beach day.
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