Things were looking bleak for Laura Heller. Laid off from her job of 10 years as a senior editor for a retail trade magazine, she was trying to get her freelance business started, but it was slow going. Then she got a call from her neighborhood Trader Joe's Supermarket. "You've won a $25 bag of groceries," they told her.

She'd been lugging her groceries home in a reusable sack, which meant she could enter a raffle for free groceries. She never thought she'd actually win them, though.

"Winning that one bag of groceries meant a lot to me at the time," she said in an e-mail. "I wasn't broke, and would not have gone hungry without it. But it felt like a turning point. Maybe things could go right, and pretty soon they did." Her freelance work began picking up soon thereafter.

"I still shop at Trader Joe's," she wrote. "And although they've discontinued the raffle and I think of that watershed moment whenever I reuse a shopping a bag."

What about you? Seeing any "green shoots" for the new year? What are some signs of positive change happening around you? We'd love to hear about them. Write us a paragraph describing them in the comments section below and we may use it in an upcoming feature story.

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