This WE Believe, essay……….
My name is Julie. The person who greatly influenced my life, and the lives of others, is my mother, Donna.
Donna was born in troubled family. She was moved around to several familes her young life. What she learned from this, was the value of family, and to always help others.
My mother cooked for others in need. We were all recruited as kids to help out those who needed help. She started a restaurant, made up of volunteers, that served a lunch meal a day, and the proceeds helped an organization that helped adults with Down Syndrome to become more independent, and learn to live by themselves. This organization is called Ming Quan, and is located in the hills of Los Gatos, California.
She was never afraid to get her hands dirty, and was always helping to build or dig something, for someone. She canned goods and then gave them away to families that needed them. She cooked meals for her friends who where housebound. Just to make sure that they had a good meal, and not some hospital food brought over by their nurses. She did this even when she became ill herself. She catered weddings for friends, because she knew that money was tight for them. She did this out of love, and never charged a dime.
When I was eleven years old, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. At the time, it was still considered taboo, and people were generally treated differently. My mother made sure that I knew that I was not any different than the other kids. She let me join the swim team, all sports, and she let me climb mountains. She let me run track. All of these things she let me do, I was told I was not suppose to do, by my doctors. I experienced discrimination for the first time at eleven. Though I did not understand it, my mother did. I was told that I was not welcome to take piano lessons anymore. Though I was not present at the time, I was told years later that she went after that lady and let her have an earful. That same lady was my Choir teacher, and my mother made sure that I still stayed in the Choir. I was told by my mother, that I was just fine, just as I was, and to never let anyone make me feel different.
When things were short, my mom would take my little brother and I, and we would follow the migrant farm workers out in the fields. We would pick up the leftover tomatoes, that were not good enough for market. We did this a few times, then she would can everything. But true to my mom’s nature, she shared with others, even if it meant we went short.
As years went on, and my mother remarried, she was a Charter member of the Rotary Club. I can’t tell you how many times she rang the bells for the Salvation Army, or how many meals that she catered in order raise money for the various charities that they sponsored. And again…my mother continued to do this, even when she was very ill.
My mother always taught us to be good to others, because we were blessed with what we had.
When the doctors told me that it was not in my best interest to have children, she told me to go ahead. That raising a child with Epilepsy was not a big deal. After all, she did it.
So I did have a child. A beautiful young son, who is now in Iraq with the United States Marine Corps. She was right….as usual. Nothing to it. I went ahead 13 years later and had another child. A beautiful girl, who is now nine years old. Both children do not display any Epilepsy.
My mother was diagnosed with a very rare disease in the late 80’s. They told her she would never walk again. She told them they were crazy, and left the facility early, against their wishes, as she had to make Thanksgiving dinner. She didn’t have to, but she wanted to. She made that dinner, and several others. She learned to walk again, though it was never the same. She drove again. She kept going, despite what they said. And through all of her pain, she did for others. Always!
My mother taught me strength, compassion, love, and most of all, to never give up. She taught me to be optimistic, and she taught me that I was never any better than the next person.
My mother passed away, quite suddenly, on September 2nd, of 2006. There were so many people that loved her, and that she had touched with her kindness. I know this, as they were there at her memorial, and they have contacted me.
I am who I am, because of my mother, and just watching her examples of kindness. My children, also, have learned the same.
One touch, one smile, one shoulder to lean on, and it has caused ripples in many, many lives.
I will truly miss my best friend, and the person who taught me to believe in myself, because she did.
Grand Junction, CO.
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