Life often gets in the way of opportunities, delays our chances, diverts our purpose and challenges our growth, confuses our passions and causes us to stop learning those things that are the most meaningful of all.
I always want to find a person’s passion for there lies their heart, but so many find it hard to know what makes their heart beat.
Passion is hard to define. Being a mother and housewife and good person in my community was a wish I held since about the age of 2 when I pretended to be Susie Homemaker, and I believe that I met the challenge of being the best mom, a dutiful wife – not to mention great cook and seamstress – and by all indications, was a respected part of my town, church, tribe. I agreeably met expectations, and loved doing so.
As a child, I knew it was important to help others, but as I got older, I knew that I wanted my life to be spent aiding the down-trodden, the misfits, those who struggle. In school, there were girls who were unkempt, not bathed, wearing shabby clothes, and could never invite anyone to their homes, nor were they ever invited into the homes of others. The kids would pass “cooties” every time one of these girls walked by or was accidentally touched. Wrong. Very wrong. The scars, I am sure, still remain.
I do not recall, nor can I imagine, ever participating in this cruelty, but it was about 4th grade that I started feeling inside an ache in my heart for unfortunate people, and it remains to this very day.
In grade school, and for many years, The Appalachian Mountains called me, but I did not go. I sent books and gave money, but I yearned to go there to teach and hug and understand. I still regret not going.
After High School, I signed up for the Peace Corps, and when my departure was merely weeks away, I kissed this guy and thought I was falling in love. I don’t know if leaving would have been the best decision, and I don’t know if falling in love was the best decision, but that’s another discussion. Even in the midst of our discovering our passion, we become passionate:-)
Life, and influence of those around me who feared for my safety, interrupted my trip to skid-row in Chicago. I really have no comprehension that others might want to cause me harm, so have never been concerned for my safety. People tell me I just have a streak of stupid here. I still want to work on skid-row, and believe that I will one day. I know I can make a difference – if nothing more than giving a hug and a hot cup of coffee.
And such were the plans of an everyday housewife.
For a few years I regularly visited a drug rehab center for young women and encouraged many by simply listening and offering hope that a better day was ahead. I understood struggles, and would freely share my story. In time, I bonded with a beautiful girl who had traveled a very rocky road, and after many months of getting acquainted, Theresa and I started climbing her mountain of living independently. We found a landlord willing to offer low rent, we scoured the county’s yard sales for furniture and household items, and we began the legal process that would allow her visitation with her 4-year-old daughter. This story does not have a happy ending. Drugs won. This was not fairytale material, but in the midst of it, you cannot think failure is even possible. If we knew the outcome, we would never climb the first rung.
My time in inner city Detroit allowed me the privilege of loving and feeding and holding those who never felt the sun shine on their souls for even a day. Visiting the psych ward at the Detroit City Hospital is an experience I will never forget. Juanita was delusional and different, but she had normal days, and I enjoyed helping her manage life, driving her to church and being her friend. The day I received the call that she was taken – in a straight-jacket – to the hospital was a hopeless one. Juanita had tried to kill herself, and the edge of insanity had come so close that she simply had to crash on the other side. I visited with her a few times but with too many prescription drugs and only a vague recognition, I abandoned the fight for Juanita, but the overall fight is never over. We can never give up on those who need us.
We are all touched, in one form or another, by mental illness, and the stigma surrounding those who suffer must stop! I am not naïve enough to say that love can cure the disease, but love can offer hope and change, but this is another story for another day.
Doug was a recovering alcoholic. It had been years since he had lived in his own home, and after choosing Jim Beam over his wife and children, life began its downward spiral. He showed up at the television station every day to do odd jobs and be around “good” people. He was funny and animated and very helpful. When the sun started going down, he and I would walk down the street to the local coney island and get him dinner before he wandered off into the darkness toward home – address unknown. Doug rarely cried over his lot in life. He knew that to keep taking the 12 steps was a challenge big enough.
So many stories of people – people who are beyond the whining stage, who are standing on an unsteady floor at the bottom of nothing, who are over the idea that someone will take care of them . . . My passion, my calling, my purpose? No one is too dirty, too poor, too lost, too sad, too sick, too lonely that love cannot change their life, but, the end of this story is not about their lives being changed, but how each of them have changed mine. I am not a Mother Theresa because I do not do what I do without reward.
I rarely get to the end of the story with most people I have met, and I rarely know how my presence changed their lives, but I do know how they – each one of them – has affected mine, and there, my friend, is my reward. Yes, there is a price to pay to help others. Broken trust, sad heart, threat of disease, and a weariness that may take days to overcome, but it is worth it. There is not one person I wish I had not met.
So, here I am in Estes Park, Colorado, far from The Appalachian Mountains or the skid-row in Chicago, but I am living my passion.
The Promise, a ministry in Marion, Illinois, reaches out with love and hope to the homeless and needy. Dave and Peg Maragni share my passion and allow me to be a part – from a distance. I visited them when in Illinois earlier this month, and they are doing a tireless work. It is my privilege to know them. If you want to know more, “Like” their page – The Promise, Marion, Illinois, on Facebook.
Locally, I have a family who needs help. Their home flooded, and they are out of work, and our laws say they are not supposed to be here, so they are afraid of asking for help. One of the parents is legal and one is not. How to explain to the children that to ask for food and shelter threatens to devastate the family even more than they already are? I am happy to report that after many hard days, we are getting ahead of the challenges and are more hopeful with every sunrise.
Immigration reform. Another story for another day.
Today, I thank you for reading my heart and hearing my passion. May you find your passion among the expectations of your life, and may your passion help others find theirs.