update: I don’t want my coworkers to know I’m living off cupcakes from the employee kitchen

Three years ago, back in 2011, I published a letter from a reader who didn’t want her coworkers to know that she was “living off of cupcakes from the employee kitchen.” She was struggling financially and couldn’t afford meals, let alone new clothes, when her employer changed its casual dress code to one that prohibited jeans … and started requiring a $5 “donation” for every violation. Her three pairs of pants were all jeans.

She wasn’t asking for any help other than advice, but lots of readers asked for her address so that they could send her pants and other help. She send in one update a few months later, but now, three years later, here’s a new update.

I wanted to send a quick update since I haven’t sent one in a few years and, with the holidays coming up, I am thinking of that original post often! The generosity of your readers still touches me to this day. The financial support I received was incredibly humbling, but it was the genuine kindness that so many people showed my son and I that kept my spirits afloat through a very dark time. I can’t quantify the impact that support has had on my life; it’s a cliché but that experience restored my belief in humanity and our collective ability to do great things.

I’m happy to report that things have only gotten better since my last update! I married a wonderful man this year, and we celebrated the birth of our youngest son. After a few challenging years that required balancing independent contract work with children and school, I have finally been able to return to school full-time to pursue an accelerated BScN. I am working very hard to honour the support that I received from so many people to get here, and I’m currently in the top 10% of my class. My husband, children, and I have also committed many hours each year volunteering with my former nonprofit employer as our way of paying it forward.

I’d like to leave your readers with a message, that even a small act of kindness can have a huge impact on someone else’s life. I reached out to you with a practical work issue, but you and so many readers were insightful enough to recognize the real problem – that I was struggling and too proud to ask for real help. I think most people have trouble asking for help, so never be afraid to offer it where you think it is needed. It doesn’t have to be money or food or clothing, sometimes just a few kind words of encouragement or appreciation are all that is needed. You can change someone’s life, and my family and I are proof of this.

I wish you and your readers a happy and hopeful 2015!

{ 54 comments… read them below }

    1. AMG

      With so many people who take advantage of the good nature of others, it is so heartwarming to see someone like you getting the help they need. Thank you for the wonderful update, and Happy Holidays! All the best to you and your family.

  1. A Teacher

    YAY! This one warms my heart and is one I remember from the update. So glad you’re doing well, Happy New Year OP!

  2. Stephanie

    Aw, this is awesome to hear! I read through the comments on the original post (again…some of the dust from outside must have gotten in the room) and the outpouring was touching.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      Oh, NOW I understand the comments above about dust! I was wondering if something had been changed in the posting after the comments, wasn’t even thinking about people getting a tear in their eye. (Perhaps because it really is dusty where I live, and dust doesn’t affect me that way.)

  3. abankyteller

    I remember reading this one. Oh my, there is something in my eye.

    OP, I’m so glad things have gotten better for you!

  4. Katie the Fed

    Oh wow! I wasn’t a reader then (and too bad – I would love to have helped – but what a lovely story and update! This really is a lovely community here. OP – I’m so glad things are going well!

  5. thisgivesmehope

    I relate so much to this OP’s original post – makes me feel better and a bit less like my awful holiday is endless . My story is similar to Kristi’s – right in the thick of it – and I can’t wait for it to turn around!

    /christmas-fuzzies

    AAM readers really are the best. A+ guys.

  6. Natalie

    Man, this update warmed my little atheist heart this Christmas. I just watched the muppet Christmas carol and now all I can think of is the last song.

  7. TheLazyB

    Awww I’m crying over here. Thank you – to everyone. The OP, for this update; this wonderful community; and Alison, for giving everyone a place to come together.

  8. Rebecca

    What a wonderful update! And a perfect lesson for all of us – a small act of kindness can mean so much to someone. We really never know how much, most of the time, and this is one of those rare occasions we can see the outcome.

  9. littlemoose

    Thrilled to get such a great update from this OP. Wishing her all my best that things continue to look up and improve for her, and very thankful that she got through such a rough time.

    Thanks, Alison, for posting this update today, and for fostering such a great community here.

  10. SanguineAspect

    Wow… all of the feels. This is solidly the BEST update we’ve had from an OP. This was a wonderful, heartwarming way to start my Christmas day. Wishing all of the VERY best to the OP and her family–congratulations and keep on being awesome!

  11. Nervous Accountant

    Yay! I was bugging Alison for an update on this OP, I’m so glad things went well for her!!!!!! I went through a couple of awful, rough periods the last couple of years, but this only proves things can look up….you always remember how people treat you in those times….I don’t celebrate Christmas, but what a nice little present for today =)

  12. dang

    I’m so happy for you. It’s nice to be reminded that things can always get better. Happy holidays to yoy and toys, OP!

  13. Dawn88

    My Mom used to say, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
    Pass the kleenex…my current issues are similar, so this gives me hope.

  14. mweis77

    Very dusty here. Perfect Christmas update. And not only the outpouring from readers, but the grace of the recipient, warms my heart. Thank you for sharing, OP.

  15. Karyn

    No joke, I read this during one of those ASPCA commercials and I am a big weepy mess now. This is the best update I’ve read so far.

  16. Jean

    The comments here and in response to the original post are _humbling_. Thank you to everyone for the collective lessons about being strong through adversity, being kind to people having a hard time, and being able to distinguish between wants and needs. It’s (justifiably! blush…) hard to complain when my own life is so rich in comparison.

    Of the many facets of the AAM community (practical workplace advice; blunt but not mean-spirited suggestions to OPs about changing bad habits; blunt and sometimes hilarious responses to WTF events) my favorite is its strong underground cable of humanitarian kindness, usually expressed by a willingness to post constructive suggestions or do good deeds for others. The examples of other AAM commenters inspire me to post in future shorter, more focused, more cheerful comments instead of continuing to be grouchy, didactic, and/or verbose.

    To sign off I want to repeat what the executive director of my synagogue said yesterday (when I called with a last-minute question for another employee who had already left work because he/she celebrates Christmas): “Happy everything.” Where I am–both online and IRL–the sun is shining. I’m going to go outside and be happy. Thank you, every one of you, for contributing to this community.

    1. Stephanie

      So eloquent and well-put. I’ll think of this when I accidentally read Yahoo News comments and weep for humanity.

  17. Cool Beans

    What a great update!! So proud of the OP for all the hard work. What a wonderful response to a reader in need.

    Sending love to the AAM community!

  18. UKJo

    I’m so happy reading this. Not ashamed to say I shed a big fat tear! One question: something that made me cry buckets with the original post reading back now was your being separated from your toddler (I’m a mum of toddler now, so must be projecting a bit). Did you get your little one back? I hope so, as you mention children plural :) And hugs and best wishes to you and your family x

  19. Melissa

    YAY! Eyes are a bit misty right now :D I’m so happy for OP and this makes me love the AAM community even more. Happy holidays everybody!

  20. drjuliesunny

    I’m literally brushing off tears in my office. OP – you are amazing and have much to be proud of. Thank you for continuing to allow us to to share in your happiness. You are an inspiration and it’s a joy to hear that you’ve taken a very, very demoralizing and depressing situation and made it better. Thank you.

    AAM readers – you are INCREDIBLE. I’ve been on this site for about a year so I just read this now, and I’m beyond words at the kindness and generosity of others. I work in a tough field with a tough patient population, and stories like this help me chin up and stay afloat about the goodness of human beings. You are all amazing.

  21. Purple Dragon

    I can’t believe I missed this update. I concur that there seems to be a lot of dust in the air. A lot of dust.

    I am so grateful to the OP for this update – Thank you. Good luck in the future and I wish you and your family every happiness.

  22. coffeedevil

    hayfever. and I already have a cold. honest…
    so glad my faith in humaity is restored; and OP I am so pleased wit your newws. All the best for your future.

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