About 4 years ago, a young woman with 2 little girls, came into my life. She was practically a girl herself, yet she was a mother and I took care of her little girls while she attended classes, at the school in which I work at. Although she was a pretty girl, she did not take good care of her appearance and she dressed in a way that did not leave much to the imagination. She revealed to me that she made a living by being a stripper, so that she could take care of her daughters during the day and still make enough money to live.
She came to me wounded and needy from her life’s journey which became more evident each time she opened up to me about these path’s she had walked…these paths, that were similar in many aspects, to one’s I had walked so many years ago. Her daughters came to me hungry as well. She came hungry to learn and to finish her schooling but it was easy for her to become discouraged because learning came hard for her. Her hunger to be loved and for acceptance was so great that it stood in her way much of the time. Her greatest desire was to be a good mother and break the chains of her history repeating itself in her daughters.
While the teachers worked with her on the learning, I worked on building her up and getting her to see her worth and potential. I believe God has given me the gift of being able to see the good in people…the ability to see through the outside to what is on the inside…I read between the lines, hear what is not being said, so to speak. Sometimes, this gift has been a curse but most of the time, it has been a blessing.
I began with teaching her that in order to be a good loving mother, she had to start with herself, because you can’t give away what you don’t have. I started with loving her right where she was at and she was like a sponge that soaked up every drop. Her eyes started opening up to the good that was inside of her and life in general. In the year that she came to me, I watched her blossom as a woman and a mother, even though there were moments of taking three steps forward, four steps back…eventually she started taking more steps forward than backwards. She was starting to “get it”. As she learned how to forgive herself and other’s that had deeply wounded her, she began to have hopes and dreams for a better future. She began to believe in something more. Up to this point she prided herself in being a stripper but now she wanted to stop…she began to believe that she could be something more.
She came to believe that no one had a right to hit or kick her(even if they’re your parents or you‘re married to them)…that no one had a right to call her derogatory names or demean her…that guys don’t deserve sex just because they say she is pretty or are nice to her…that drugs were not the answer to the pain inside her heart…ever so slowly, she started saying “NO” to all of these things.
As she began to love herself, she started taking care of her hygiene and dressing in clothes that were not only clean but less revealing and provocative. She looked like a different person and in a sense she was. I already thought she was pretty when she first came to me, now she was beautiful. If your thinking this brought much attention from the opposite sex, you are correct. Trying to teach her how to handle such attention was not easy. Beauty combined with a self esteem that is still in the process of improving can be a difficult combination.
I worked with this young woman and cared for her children for a little over a year. She came every day and just like that, she stopped coming…with only a couple of months left until graduation. I called her, went to her house, and sent her letters…found out that her ex-husband had moved back in. This abusive man convinced her to take him back, that coming to school was just a waste of money and that she would never make as good of money as she does being a stripper. I begged her to come back. I begged her to let me continue helping her. She rejected all of it...my love, my help, my belief in her.
Eventually, her phone was disconnected and they moved. I was able to get a new address from her mother, a PO box, so although I couldn’t go find her, I would still write her letters. I continued writing to her weekly even though I never got a response back. I wrote her weekly until the letters started coming back. This broke my heart because it felt like he(her ex-husband) and evil had won. She lost her fight. I lost. Most everyone had told me to give up a long time ago, that I was wasting my time…eventually, I had to just let it go…let her go. That was 2 ½ years ago.
This past week, she called me. She wanted to know if I remembered her. Of course I never forgot about her or her daughters and my heart stopped as I recognized her voice. She went on to thank me for all that I had done for her and her daughters while she had attended school…and then she thanked me for all the cards and letters I had sent…that she has kept them all and still reads them…and that she wanted me to know that those letters and cards helped her through some really hard times…that my words had saved her life. She wanted me to know that I hadn’t wasted my time on her. I was speechless. Then, I realized that she was crying. I reassured her that I hadn’t forgotten her and that I still loved and cared about her. She is coming to see me this week!
The point of this post, is not to say that I am this great person for reaching out to this girl. My point is this…we all come into contact with various people in our lives and we don’t always realize to what affect we have on others. We meet people, and it’s easy to determine their worth or value based on their appearance. It’s easy to judge people in our lives when their shortcomings, failures or sins are exposed to us. Our words have the ability to either build up or tear down.
When we send a simple card or letter, most of the time, we never know the affects it has on the receiver. When we make that phone call in the busyness of our day, just to say hello, we may not realize the gift that this is to the person we are calling. When we smile at the person passing us on the street or the cashier at the grocery store, most of the time, we don’t have a clue to the value of that smile to the person looking at it. The price tag on reaching out and touching others can sometimes be costly...sometimes we don't see the end result...sometimes it might seem like it was a waste of our time.
I had no clue that I touched this young woman in the manner that I did. I had no idea that my words were even read, let alone meant something to her. To many people around me, I was wasting my time. To her, my words were food for her still hungry soul… that still needed to know that someone in this world thought she mattered.
Never underestimate the affect you have on the people you come in contact with…you never know when they are going to show back up in your life!