by Joe O’Brien

On December 23, 2016, I discovered I was being laid off for the third time in three years. The company I was working for told me in October they would extend my contract through June 2017, but that wasn’t the case. For the consecutive third year during the holidays, I was looking for answers and facing another deflating Christmas season.

A Knox Presbyterian Church member encouraged my wife Kristin and me to attend a service where one of the activities was picking a paper star on which was written a guidance word for the year. The word I pulled was “Riches.” I looked up its definition and the unsurprising first answer was “material wealth.” The second definition was the most meaningful and planted a seed inside me: “Valuable Natural Resources.”

Shortly after this, my dear wife, Kristin, suggested I should give teaching a shot, so I substitute taught in Naperville and found my calling. I discovered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and subsequently began classes to earn my master’s degree in education. During my time of unemployment, the greater Naperville community also greeted me with open arms and helped me in addition to the support system I had at Knox. I visited SamaraCare Counseling for therapy guidance. Loaves & Fishes helped provide resources and food for my family to feast on during this struggle. The Community Career Center helped revise my resume and sharpen my interviewing skills to land my current full-time position.

I now know that my community and faith are with me through all my ups and downs. I couldn’t have imagined that by letting my guard down and trusting others with my circumstances, I would receive riches beyond my imagination. The people in our community built me up and helped me reach new heights.

Joe O’Brien is a former Loaves & Fishes client. We are so grateful he has shared his story about the support he’s received from our community. Our community is indeed full of “Valuable Natural Resources.” For more information visit