One Little Envelope

by Lisa
Colorado, USA

One LIttle Envelope

My sophomore year in college was particularly difficult, and not only because of the classes. Most of the friends I’d made in previous year weren’t around, and the living situation with my roommates was tense and uncomfortable. I was having health problems complicated by a sleeping disorder and depression, and, as I’d chosen to attend college in another state, I had no family around.

Compounding all this was a distinct lack of funds. Almost all college students are strapped for cash, but after paying for tuition and books and a couple of unavoidable emergency expenses, I was completely broke. My parents were in the middle of a bankruptcy, so they were truly unable to help.

A full course load and no cell phone meant I couldn’t find a job, even on campus, and I couldn’t get another loan to help offset living expenses. I found I had to cut back on a lot of things, including food. After a month, money was so tight I was unable to even buy groceries.

I didn’t have a meal plan on campus, so I only ate once, maybe twice a day, relying on cheap things like Ramen noodles and eggs, and the occasional fruit the neighbors let me pick from their trees. It wasn’t a healthy diet by any means, and it took a toll on my body and mind.

My energy levels flagged, and I struggled with classes. Combined with insomnia, anxiety and depression, I lost about 20 pounds in less than two months and the health center nurse diagnosed me with malnutrition. I needed help, but didn’t know where else to turn.

I grew up middle class, not wealthy by any means, but rarely lacking for the necessities, so this was a tough experience. It’s amazing how we take such basics as food for granted, until they’re suddenly out of reach.

One day when I got back from class, I found an envelope sitting on my front porch with my name on it. It contained grocery store gift certificates — $300 worth! No name, no note, and nobody I asked knew where this had come from. No one would admit to it either, so I didn’t know whom to thank.

It was an exceedingly generous gift, exactly what I needed most, which eased a lot of my stress, and was probably the only thing that saved me from a nervous breakdown that semester. It contained enough extra to see me through three semesters of college. It also allowed me to save enough money to get myself in a better financial situation. That one little envelope had a huge impact for me.

Someone reached out a helping hand for me when I needed it the most. Since I can’t repay my anonymous angel, I’ve used their inspiration to pay it forward whenever I see someone else’s need that I can meet.

Originally published as HeroicStories #789 on March 1, 2010

3 thoughts on “One Little Envelope”

  1. The community college that I went to now has a food closet that is open to those in need. They needed it even when I went there 25 years ago; however, better late than never.

    Another need that people can meet is helping students with bus fare. Several of my classmates walked really huge distances or hitchhiked to get to school. When you add up class time, studying, working a job, there isn’t time enough to walk miles to get to school. And hitchhiking isn’t safe. Think about offering a bus ticket or bus pass if you know someone is in need.

  2. I’m so glad she was able to get the help she needed.

    It would have been even better if she knew she probably qualified for food stamps! So many people don’t even think about this possibility for students – and a lot of them are going through this.


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