I walked into that Christmas party on December 13, 2018, with both excitement and shame. My old co-workers from Get A Grip Total Fitness reached out and invited my kids and me to attend. They knew that we were going through a hard time, so I was honored that they wanted us to just experience a night of fun and laughter. Boy, did I need it. I was excited to see everyone, yet, full of shame knowing that my life circumstances were far from what they were when I was working there and hiding the abuse that I was enduring.
On that December night, I was weeks into my new journey of leaving my ex-husband after years of abuse. I was a stay-at-home-mother that worked very little throughout the years, including at the fitness studio where I was attending the party. My parents passed away when I was 18 years old, and the domestic violence shelters were full and unable to house my 3 children and me. At this point, we were homeless and staying for a short time with a friend. I was barely making ends meet substitute teaching. I needed to find a stable home for the 4 of us.
That night, I came with absolutely no expectations other than to have a relaxing, festive time. I am very hard to surprise, and I was completely clueless as to what was to come. As the night came closer to the end, everyone listened as my old boss, Carrie, gathered us around to announce winners of the holiday contests they were doing at the gym; however, she took a detour in the conversation that flabbergasted me.
To my surprise, she called me forward. I slowly made my way through the people as they all just smiled at me. Little did I know that they knew exactly why she was doing this. Carrie then shared with me that the members and staff decided to work together and collect money and gift cards for me and my boys totaling an incredibly generous $2,000. Tears streamed down my face as I began to shake and sob uncontrollably. It wasn’t just the money that I so desperately needed. After feeling unwanted and disregarded for so long through the abuse, and after being rejected countless times for places to stay in the transition, the love that I felt in that moment gave me the strength and hope to keep going in what was the most overwhelming and hardest battle of my life.
I put the money in savings, and within 6 weeks, found an ad for a gutted trailer in an area of town that I was looking to live in so that my boys could be close to their school. Because the trailer needed so much work, they were willing to lower the costs drastically. And can you guess what the cost was?
The act of kindness from my old co-workers and the members of that gym not only gave me hope and showed me love that I so desperately needed, but it led the way to my independence and freedom to raise my boys in a home that was peaceful and abuse-free. Even after fixing it up, it wasn’t much to look at, but it was ours. We would go on to move out of that trailer once I met my now-husband, and life has improved tremendously.
There are still good people in this world. Not everybody will use or reject you. As I write this almost 3 years to the day from my Christmas miracle, I am now able to pay it forward and raise money for BTSADV’s Holidays of Hope, a program that assists children in domestic violence situations receive presents for the holiday season, just as my boys did were helped. I use my voice as a blogger and advocate for BTSADV to encourage someone to have the courage to start their own journey into freedom. I believe people like those at Get A Grip Total Fitness in Lutz, Florida helped pave the way for my journey. They will truly never know the impact that they made on that December night.