This I Believe

Jessica - Sandy, Utah
Entered on January 3, 2008

The Strength to Overcome

By Jessica Gaffney

I believe in the human capacity for resilience, to overcome impossible situations and continue to value life. An experience I had a few years ago with foster care taught me that people can maintain hope and a positive attitude even through the most difficult situations.

When I was 9, my mom announced to me that our family was getting involved in foster care, and another little girl would be living with us for a while. Four-year-old Amanda came from a home where she was abused and neglected. I had never even imagined the horrible things she had experienced, but when I met her, I was shocked by her charm and cheerfulness.

Still, we never forgot that Amanda came from a different background. She treated food like a security blanket. Even if she wasn’t hungry, she had to be in possession of food, a guarantee that there would be a next meal. For a long time, she never used anyone’s names. She called her social worker “Case Worker” and my sister and I her “foster sisters”, so she wouldn’t get too attached, too quickly. Gradually, she began to open up, each day making her more affectionate and trusting. We loved her as if she was truly a member of the family.

After Amanda’s mom endured rehab, a judge decided it was time for Amanda to live with her mom again. No one knew if her mom would take care of her this time. I was doubtful. I thought there was no chance her mother would be able to change. Although it had been difficult for my whole family, everyone was sad to see Amanda’s crooked smile for the last time. Once again, she was taken away from the people she called her family.

My mother simply thought that by involving our family in foster care we would be helping the community, but what she didn’t realize was just how much it would affect us. Now, five years later, I finally understand the compassion we were demonstrating was essential to the person I was becoming. It helped me realize the qualities and traits I wanted to demonstrate with my life.

We taught Amanda to trust and love, but she taught me about having enthusiasm and hope through tough situations. Her amazing resiliency to terrifying circumstances amazed me. How could she endure so much instability and negligence and still be able to trust and love? Amanda taught me to truly appreciate basic things I would otherwise have taken for granted, and to keep a positive attitude through all life’s challenges. She also taught me about valuing and appreciating life, a lesson I had not learned despite all the good things surrounding me.

While Amanda introduced me to life at its most desperate and miserable, she also showed me that you can survive those times, and look past them to see life at its most beautiful.