I believe that every life has value. I didn’t always think so. There was a time in my life where I was fairly convinced that mine in particular did not. I was a victim of rape, abuse, and nothing short of psychological terrorism. I was eighteen years old, my life should have been just beginning, but what I wanted more than anything was to die. I don’t know if it was fate, or luck, or even some higher power, but I was assigned to a rape and abuse crisis counselor named Andrea, who would save, alter, and forever shape my life. Andrea wasn’t like other counselors, she didn’t pretend to understand what it was like to be me, she didn’t ask all the usual questions, and she didn’t claim to have all or even any of the answers, but what she would teach me there in those sessions was more important than anything I would later learn in any college course. What she did do was inspire. She was relentless and unbending in the belief that no matter what had happened to me I was not less for it, but more. It was her belief that my life had meaning, worth, that I was capable of overcoming trauma, of being a whole complete and fulfilled person. At first I couldn’t share her beliefs. I couldn’t see past the pain, the ugliness that I felt had tainted and marked me forever. She saw it as a strength. Later she would tell me that she too had been abused, that most in the field had. This wasn’t a glory job, after all who wants to be exposed to that kind of pain, that kind of horror every day? I thought she was the most courageous woman in the world. I have never lost my admiration for what she and those like her do. She could have hidden it away. She could have repressed it or tried to forget it ever happened. She could have taken the easy way out like I had intended to do, but instead she chose to embrace it. To take away strength and knowledge from her experience and use it to help others. I was just some name on a piece of paper, but she was willing to relive all of her own trauma, and to listen and experience all of mine to try and help me, to save me, when she didn’t even know me. It was from Andrea that I learned that there is potential in every experience. No matter how good, or bad, whether life-altering or mundane, in every situation there is the opportunity to learn, to grow, and become more than I was before it. Andrea was my hero, my inspiration, and my greatest support. If she could face her fear and pain for me, how could I do any less? How could I let the someone else have the power to diminish my potential? It was because of her that I regained a sense of self, and more so a sense of purpose. I decide in that office what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to do as she did, to help others the way that she had helped me, because I knew what it was to be on the other side. Andrea would teach me many things, about life, and strength, and about myself. But perhaps the most important thing I would learn from her was that which has stayed with me: One person can make a difference. And there is always, always hope. This I believe.
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