The Moments of Our Lives
Who we become is a collage of many special moments. The moments that impact our lives. The moments when we are influenced by another person. The moment we feel our values brim to the surface. The moment we realize we have a voice. A voice for all things that truly matter to us. As I look back over my life, these are some of those moments…
When I was about six years old and playing in my neighborhood with my older sister, an older girl told my sister to pull down her panties. My sister has developmental disabilities and would often do things she was unsure about just to fit in. As the girl began laughing as my sister started to reach under her dress, I yelled “NO.” My sister stopped and looked to me. The older girl began to bully me as my sister began to cry. I told my sister to go home. As the older girl came towards me as I was backing away, I picked up a rock and threw it at her. The rock hit her in the head. Terrified, I ran home and I told my mom what happened. I had to apologize. The bully did not. That moment taught me the importance of taking care of those less fortunate. I was my sister’s advocate from that day forward.
When I was about eight years old, I went out with my dad to deliver Christmas gifts to many of his employees. My dad was a superintendent of public schools in a small Southern town. As I guess you can imagine, there were lots of teachers, principals, and custodians to visit. My dad would drive up to the North Carolina mountains to buy just-picked apples for each person. One of the stops was to an African-American family. Richard, the school system’s custodian lived in a small house on the railroad tracks. I remember watching my dad carry the bag full of bright, red apples to the door. Richard’s wife answered the door and invited my dad into their home. My dad looked and motioned “one minute” to me as he went inside. After a few minutes, my dad was at the door smiling and laughing, he reached out and hugged Richard’s wife, walked down the steps, turned, and waved with a “Merry Christmas.” He got in the car, and he said to me, “You won’t meet a finer family. Richard is one of my most important employees.” In the sixties, in the South, on that winter’s night, at that moment, I believed my dad. As the years passed, my dad taught me about what racism looked like and that he did not understand it. I, today, still do not understand it.
At about the same age, I was downtown with my mom doing some shopping. We went into J.C. Penney. In the corner were two water fountains. They were labeled. I asked my mom about it. I asked her why there were two separate water fountains, one for whites and one for African-Americans. She said she did not know why. She went on and told me about slavery, The Civil War, and how many white people felt that they were a little better than African-Americans. I could not believe that people actually bought and sold other people. Because I knew Richard, I went on to tell her how much I liked him, how he worked with daddy, and how much Daddy liked him. She told me that she did not agree with the two water fountains, and thought things were about to change. At that moment, I realized that the world is unfair. That there are mean people in the world. That there are things I do not understand.
The first African-American student in my grade started first grade with me. My dad was superintendent when Brown v. Board of Education declared there would no longer be separate schools for children of different races. In the early beginnings of this change, I was very young. I do not remember much of what happened. I do know from what I was later told, that a police officer was in front of our house for many weeks. It was a turbulent time in my hometown and across the South. By the time I reached first grade, things had calmed down, but there was one African-American girl in my class. We became friends. We grew up together. Her dad was a floral designer at a very nice florist in my small town. I used to go after dance class and visit him. I would always leave with flowers. My conversations with him influenced who I became. He reaffirmed my belief that we are all the same in heart and soul.
As I grew up, I began to understand the challenges my family faced in raising a child with developmental disabilities. My mom, a gifted singer, gave up her career to take care of us. My sister faced many hardships. Everything was difficult for her. Because of her challenges, she would often cry all day. My mom tried everything to make her happy. But some days, her promise of better days did not work. At the end of the day, my mom was exhausted. One afternoon, I walked into the kitchen, and my mom was crying. I had never seen her cry. When she saw me, she did not try to cover her heartbreak. At that moment, I was not just a daughter, but a friend. She remained my best friend until she died. At that moment, I realized that dreams do not always come true, but that we never give up on the ones that matter. My mom’s perseverance taught me about the warrior spirit. She gave it to me. Just like my mom, I arise each and every day, and believe that the day before me could be the best day of my life.
My dad went in with some friends and bought some rental houses. They were in a poor area of town. He thought it would bring in some extra money for our family. What he did not count on was tenants unable to pay rent. The houses needed a lot of work. When most of the families that lived in them could not pay, they were thrown out by the other investors. Not my dad. He came in one night, and said he had gotten out of the rental business. He said he just couldn’t throw families out on the street. At that moment, I realized what integrity really meant. He may not have been a great landlord, but he could not make a profit at any cost, either. Society can be confusing. The push is to do good things, and yet, we are often faced with issues that test our moral conscience. At that moment in my life, I was proud of his decision. His integrity rose above the extra money.
My entire childhood, I wanted a horse. Horses are expensive, and it took a lot of convincing to talk my parents into buying me one. Long days at the barn changed my life. When most of my friends were going to parties and interested in the social scene…I was at the barn. I was at the barn before school, and again when I got out. Often, I was joined by other friends with horses, but many days, I was alone. I began to like my own company. I had time to think and dream. Those long days with my dog Sham and my horses Lancer and Foxy, gave me the time to find out who I was. I have always beat to a different drum. The quiet days, however, just allowed me to hear it.
I was on the swim team in the summer. I loved the breaststroke. However, I was good at butterfly. Our team was going to the state tournament. My coach informed me that I would be swimming butterfly, not breaststroke. I was disappointed. I would be at the young side of my age group. I didn’t think I would do very well. When I dove into the pool that night, I heard someone yelling at me from the poolside. It was my dad. He never came to dance recitals, or out to the barn. But there he was yelling at me to push harder. I swam my heart out that night. I did not win, but I came in fourth. My dad’s excitement was so apparent. It was on that night that I knew how proud my dad was of me. With all of our heated debates, with the challenges in his life, at that moment, I was in the center. I realized the importance of cheering someone on. Confidence can change a life.
When I got older, I had a boyfriend stand me up and break up with me. I was upset and crying. My mom drove to my apartment at four in the morning. She consoled me for a few minutes, and then she said, “No man is worth this.” We talked until daybreak. I realized that night that another person cannot make a person happy. Happiness is our own. We choose to be happy, and sharing that happiness with someone else is a beautiful thing. Self respect became more important to me. I no longer wanted a boyfriend, but rather a partner…mutual respect included.
There have been many more moments that helped to make me who I am. The most recent was when I decided to build a startup. It was almost like the idea was AirDropped into my brain. The vision started running in my head. I could see it so clearly. I decided to act on the idea. I refuse to give up. I am so excited every day. The fact that I beat to a different drum has been a plus. So has perseverance. My ability to work alone gives me lots of time to give of myself to the business and really love every second of it. But, most importantly, the confidence that I believe that I can do it…keeps me going. I believe every day will be the best day for my venture, and that if I keep the vision in sight, my dreams just might come true.
I am a collage of many moments. These moments define us. They are what set us apart from someone else. We all have the opportunity to impact someone else’s life. By doing so, our lives come full circle. Life is not just about our own journey, but also the lives we touch. We can change a person’s life. It is that power that makes life worth living. The moments we are given and the moments we give back.