Sometimes I pinch myself when I think of how far I have come from the days when I laid awake at night listening to the violent fighting on the lower floor or calling the police because my father is standing with his six foot plus frame bearing down on my mother’s throat. Whether I am marveling that I got the opportunity to have a loving marriage to the man who is my rock, to have a wonderful relationship with my sister, to have many cherished friends, to attend a highly sought after clinical program, or to repeatedly wander and explore beautiful parts of the world I feel forever grateful to the wonderful people who helped me see that my life could be different.
One of the most important people was a Guide leader who I met as a 10 year old. She has become dearer and dearer to me over the years. We have grown into more than friends. Now almost fifty years later she introduces my sister and I as her adopted daughters and we see her as our mother. On many Sunday afternoons we pass our time chatting away over the phone and love when we get a chance to get together (often at her favorite Chinese food restaurant).
I am so blessed to have the inspiration of this amazing woman in my life. Through her example I learned that a woman could be strong, loving, creative, and fun. With her no nonsense style she showed me no one had to live with abuse and encouraged me to be all I could be. I don’t think as a child I ever told her what was going on in my home and I am not sure how much she sensed. We didn’t need to talk about it. I learned that if it was really rough at home that I could call her and ask if she needed a babysitter and she would invite to stay with her family that weekend. It gave me a reprieve from whatever chaos was occurring at home and an incredible opportunity to see a loving family go about their daily lives. Through her example she lit a path through the clouds.
I try to never under estimate the power of words of encouragement, sharing my belief that people are able to rise above seemingly insurmountable challenges, or showing by example that we can build relationships and communities in which we treat each other with respect and kindness. Often we have no idea when these simple gestures make a difference in a person’s life. Many like me as a child, do not talk about the challenges they are facing, but they are taking in what they see and hear around them. We can all shine lights on others’ paths! You never know when you will be the one who helps someone find a way through his or her clouds of abuse. Let’s pay it forward!