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Today was a rough day. We awoke to a silent alarm, cancelled school, and a driveway filled with snow. I’m sure we made quite the show for our neighbors while shoveling. I got the crazy (but effective!) idea to “sweep” the snow. Patrick was trying to keep me focused while shoveling with a tiny child’s shovel I swindled him into using. So with my gimp shoulder and Patrick in his suit, we shoveled our driveway, laughing and joking the whole time. We drove the perilous roads of Akron and Kenmore with only enough gas for 10 miles.

By the time we dropped the children off with the sitter and made our way back to Fairlawn, it was 10:10 and we were at zero to empty…. I was supposed to be at work at 9:15. To make matters worse, on an  empty tank of gas, we have no money to buy more. Thankfully, Giant Eagle accepts checks! Sadly though, our bank account is at zero. We are eagerly waiting my first paycheck. It was mailed on the 13th. We hoped to get it Saturday, got our hopes up yesterday after forgetting it was a holiday, and fully expected it to be in the mail today. It is devastating to be relying on an already short pay and not get it. Everything just stops. I had plans to buy groceries. Gone. Finally pay the generous woman who is watching my children. Nope. Not today. It is a very hard pill to swallow and makes finding the bright side very difficult.

After finding a yet another late bill notice in my mailbox instead of the desperately desired paycheck, I packed myself up to head out to pick up Patrick and the girls. As I reached into my pocket and pulled out my keys to lock our door, a dollar bill floated to the ground.  There is no exaggeration when I say, it was literally the only dollar we had. Change has been counted and spent. Money is owed that we don’t have at the moment. That dollar was it. 

I decided that I wanted my last dollar to be spent on hope. One dollar won’t buy me anything I need right now, so why not use it to feed my soul? And so I hoped. I hoped that I would win the lottery. After picking up Patrick and driving out to Kenmore, on our way home I decided that I was going to buy a Mega Millions ticket. The jackpot was up to 154 million – what better time to play?

My first thought was to stop at the little gas station by our house. The men that work there are always so friendly and personable. I appreciate that in customer service industries. So in my mind, if I win the lottery I would want their store to get a cut of the winnings. After playing chicken with three cars, I found a spot to park in. The gentleman greeted me so warmly. I asked if I could get a Mega Millions ticket. With a shrug he said, “We don’t sell Mega Millions here. I could use some mega millions though”. I told him that I was hoping for the same thing. Such a sweet man, smiled and told me that I looked like I was going to win. I love that man for saying it. If I never win the lottery, I won the sweetness of a person giving hope to a needy stranger. There’s such beauty and hope in that. I strive every day to reach out and help people and here when I am at my neediest, someone reaches out to me with a little ray of sunshine – the hope that today might just be the day that I win. Because I believe that’s what hope is. Today may be dark, one of the worst in recent memory, but my hope makes the future always seem just a little bit brighter. The more you hope, the brighter it gets.

So I hoped. We backtracked to another gas station. As I entered I made sure to smile at everyone and look them in the eye. I bought my ticket. The attendant offered me the multiplier. I laughed and said if it was extra, I was too broke for it. She smiled. It’s funny what a little sliver of hope can do. After an otherwise somber car ride, we began to smile. And laugh. Suddenly the mood was lighter. Having to take 9 or more tries to get into our driveway wasn’t annoying. No, instead it was ridiculously silly. A testament to story that has become our life. We are fighting to get up the hill, slipping and sliding back down, over and over. Making a little more progress each go around. Patrick had to get out and shovel the ice and snow so I could finally get in. I couldn’t help but smile as Patrick shoveled his frustrations out. Hating the snow. Working furiously. Hating the cold. Dig and throw more snow. Ohio. Break up ice. You name it, he was railing about it. But as he worked, I was able to guide the car home.

Our evening was much the same. A mad scramble for dinner, battle for bathroom squatter’s rights, baths, teeth, stories, and kisses. same thing every night. Same plot, I just never know what form the craziness will present itself. But tonight, after the girls went to bed I would have expected it to be an early night so we could sleep off the disappointment.

The night has been filled with laughter and smiles and happiness. To my great surprise, tonight has been amazing. We planned how we are going to spend our winnings. Immediately we both agreed that the majority would go to helping other people. Not in the form of charities necessarily, but helping. A bag of groceries for my struggling neighbor, for my friends who have been there always, whenever we called, no matter how long it has been since we’ve talked, would never worry again. We would fix schools, houses, and problems. On and on we fantasized all the ways we could help. We smiled as we imagined the home we would move into. Room enough to invite our friends to come and share in the warmth and love of our house. How nice it would be to have a bungalow in Puerto Rico so we could send a friend on a long needed vacation. On and on we hoped and dreamed all of the silly ways we could spend such a gift. An otherwise dreadful day has somehow morphed into a fantastic evening.

And that is the gift that hope gives – light and warmth that wipes out the dark and cold that life so often brings with it.

Tomorrow has the possibility of being awful. But it also has an equal possibility of being absolutely wonderful. So I will hope for that. Because even if I am wrong, and the day ends up being awful – What harm is there having hoped for something better?

As of right now, the numbers have been pulled. I still don’t know if we won or not. I’m okay with that. I need to start handwashing our clothes for tomorrow among other things. Since Patrick is asleep, finding out will wait until morning. But I look forward to finding out, it will be fun to see the excitement (however muted) in Patrick as we see what numbers came up. How close we came to hitting the jackpot. I can’t wait.