It was seven years ago; my husband and I had only been married a few years and we lived with our baby girl in a rented basement house with a roof that started at ground level and chipping concrete walls that had been painted green. We affectionately called it the gnome home because it looked like the kind of house magical little people might occupy. Well, we never saw any little people while we lived there, but we did experience a bit of magic.

Finances were tight. My husband had just passed the test to be a Licensed Practical Nurse and was in school to become a Registered nurse. With little experience, and several years shy of any nursing shortage, the only work he could find was part time. I helped with a few work from home jobs, but mostly I took care of the baby. We watched every penny that came in and out. It helped that we were healthy and young with no medical bills or dietary restrictions. I honed my skills at infusing dry beans with flavor and my husband picked up extra hours whenever he could.

But one month, my husband couldn’t pick up any extra hours. We tried to be as frugal as possible, but at the end of the month, my heart sank as I pounded numbers into my calculator. We were exactly one hundred dollars short. 

The next day my husband and I took our daughter to visit family in an attempt to forget our stress, but we were both anxious knowing the same thing could happen the next month too. That’s when the magic happened. 

We made our way to the entrance of our home and were shocked to find several new Easter dresses sized perfectly for our daughter. Then, when we went to open the door, an unmarked envelope fell to the porch. Inside it was 100 dollars in cash. 

I held my husband’s hand as we stared at the two fifty-dollar bills. We were not open about our financial situation. No one knew what had happened, and yet here was the exact amount we were short.

Looking back, that hundred dollars didn’t keep us from starving, without it we could still pay rent, and our daughter wouldn’t have known the difference between the sweet new dress we were given and the second-hand one we would have found her. We would have survived without it, but with it, we thrived, with it we felt loved. We were amazed that someone had been watching us close enough to realize what our needs were. Someone had given us hope during a time when we felt so downtrodden and helpless. 

After that, my husband and I made a goal that we would give back in the same way as soon as our finances allowed it. Years later, we have experienced both lean and plentiful moments in our lives, but never have we been so close to the edge as we were in the days when we lived in the gnome home. We’ve made it our personal mission to pay it forward and recreate that magic for others. We can only hope that some of the people we’ve left anonymous gifts for have done the same thing we did and are making their own magic right now.

Author:  Amber Mae

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