When I first moved to Holley back in July of 2008, I reached a crossroad in my life. Divorce, job loss, and poor decision-making led to financial troubles.With two kids now on their own, I was looking for a fresh start. A bit of a distance from family in a community where no one knew me. I was hoping to downsize my life, explore a new lifestyle for myself, and hopefully make a difference.
The first few years after my move were a constant struggle as most of my time was spent either unemployed or picking up temporary work in my field. Self-employed, I was not entitled to unemployment. Having already sold my kids’ childhood home along with some possessions, I started to donate or sell off even more of my possessions. Still not enough, I was genuinely scared of losing my home…again. It was then I learned to rely on the one thing I still had, but had not used in a while. Faith.
Renewing my faith, extraordinary things started to happen. It all started with a local issue I needed to resolve.Walking down to the Holley Police Department, I was introduced to “Officer Christ”. The issue was not only resolved, but I quickly realized God placed me in this charming community for a reason. Soon after, God placed a new man in my life. Our relationship though got off to a rocky start. Struggling to make ends meet much like myself, he was telling me I had to give up how I defined and viewed wealth. Shaking my head, I really had no choice. With $50 in my checking account, I surrendered my pride and walked into the Department of Social Services to apply for food stamps only to be told that the $50 in my account disqualified me. Shortly thereafter, I had just enough money in my savings account to cover the next month’s mortgage payment, but not heat. Surrendering yet more of my pride, I applied for heating assistance, only to be told to come back when my balance dropped to zero. I surrendered yet again as I applied for work outside my field that paid minimum wage. It was at the lowest point in my life a family member came, offering financial support with the condition I did not tell their spouse. While tempted, I declined the offer as I could not keep a secret from a loved one.
Through all of this I was writing this “Visions of Holley” blog, encouraging local residents to “unbury the many hidden treasures” that surrounded them. Ironic as it may seem, this blog turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it helped me to focus on the community where I lived rather than on myself. In the process I discovered a lot of treasures along the way. Treasures came as a series of Angels. The first Angel dropped off a Wegmans’ gift card in my mailbox. Another one was a local church who was a member of the Angel Food Network that provided groceries at a reduced price to the working poor. Other Angels followed — the local food pantry, community-sponsored dinners, the exchange of services among neighbors based on individual talents; and more. There was Peter who lived across the street. A stay-at-home Dad, he had an amazing amount of energy. With that energy, he plowed the neighbors’ driveways without asking for anything. When Peter and his family moved to Virginia, Geert took over where Peter left off. Knowing Geert and Sheryl liked to shop at Aldi’s, gift cards served as a thank you. Using my writing talents, I promoted area businesses, farm markets, and local events. Having surrendered everything, my hand was empty yet open to accepting whatever came my way.
From there, my life started to turn around. A contract at a local technology company came through. Treasures in the form of community assets were everywhere… the greatest one being Holley’s people. The many neighbors who helped the local diner get back on their feet after a terrible fire; area businesses and a local government who developed a community master plan defining how they envisioned their community’s future; and the series of grants that followed, allowing much needed improvements to the public square. Treasures were found in the new businesses that sprang up; the local construction company who invested time and resources in renovating area buildings; the community servants who were known on a first name basis; the fire department who delivered candy canes door to door at Christmas time and who organized impromptu parades for local sports teams upon winning a tournament; the local teens who offered to help with yard cleanup; the parents who exchanged babysitting services; and the local garden club who planted flowers each spring along the square. Hoping to make a difference in their lives, this small community ultimately made a difference in (and saved) mine. As I used my talents, this lovely community slowly revealed her many “hidden treasures”, enriching my life and those of others in so many beautiful ways.
Thank you Holley for showing me true wealth. You taught me that wealth will never be found in a huge paycheck, material possessions, or through government programs such as paid parental leave, free college, taxing some people more than others, or in the creation of yet another entitlement program. True wealth is found when you surrender your definition, viewing it instead as “the many hidden treasures” that await you in the collective resources and talents found in your own backyard.