“Are you scared?” he asked me as he held a knife to my neck. I was walking home from a Philadelphia public school. An older boy, who I recognized, had grabbed me. Interestingly, I wasn’t scared at all. I was annoyed. Silence was my response. He tightened his grip and asked again, “Are you scared?” Perceiving that he wasn’t going to release me until I spoke what he wanted to hear I muttered, “yes.” He released me. I was seven years old. I was mad.
“Are you scared?” my friend asked. I had received a phone call which had revealed more unbelievable betrayals from my husband. I was hurt, angry, and sad for my boys. It had been years of a half dozen marriage counselors, the discovery of my husband’s alcoholism, stress related to his risk taking/destructive behavior, and more second chances than I care to count. I was done. The year that followed was the toughest ever. I felt great sadness as I watched my two boys deal with mixed feelings of relief, hurt, anger, and compassion. My financial situation was precarious. Nights found me climbing into bed filled with worries. Alone with my thoughts, I began to realize how lost I felt. In the dark, through tears, a voice started to emerge as I talked to God. It started very simply. “I’m grateful for this day and my life in it,” I began. “I’m grateful for my two amazing children, our home, my job, family, and friends.” As I focused on the gifts in my life, my worries were replaced by resolve. The spirited seven-year-old was alive in me. We would stay in our house. Life would get better.
“Are you scared?” my mother asked me after undergoing a biopsy. I had recently started to date, found an inspiring church, and was running again. I was feeling stronger and happier than ever when confronted with the diagnosis of breast cancer. When surgery and tests showed a stage two cancer, once again worries were replaced with resolve. I selected a blond wig and asked friends for funny stories to keep me laughing. I have discovered many gifts over the last six months and I am filled with gratitude; for the love and understanding of my boys, growing closer to my parents, the support of friends, and small things such as saving money on hair cuts and shampoo.
As I look in the mirror at my bald head and evolving chest, I’m not angry, or scared, or sad, because I feel strength in my God given human spirit. I believe that God’s divine spirit can be found in each of us and that by loving and respecting each other, even those perceived to be different and the least among us, we show love and respect for God. My strength is constantly renewed by connecting with others. I do not believe that God dictates events to teach us lessons, but I do believe that one can learn something valuable in every experience. I have learned to love the entire journey of life, good days and difficult ones and I am grateful for it all. My wish for everyone; take time to be grateful, and love one another.