This I Believe

Sara - Oakland, California
Entered on February 24, 2007
Age Group: 65+
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The Catalyst

Although I may not have achieved personal fame or prosperity in my ninety-two years, I believe that I am and have been a catalyst for many young people whose lives have intersected with mine, helping them to achieve beyond their expectations. By encouraging and believing in them, I have gotten them to believe in themselves.

When I was first married and living in Detroit in the early 1940s, my teenage cousin Jerry, who was considered mentally retarded, showed an interest in photography. I offered him a room in my basement as a darkroom. Years later, after winning awards for his photography, he was invited to Yosemite by Ansel Adams. One of the photographs he took on that visit is hanging in my living room. Not only did he develop pictures, he also developed in other ways, learning to read and write and to lead a very productive life.

Another young person I encouraged was my daughter’s friend Barbara. She had been rejected as a young teenager by both parents and was living with her aunt and uncle. One day, she came over with a college application. She didn’t know whether to bother filling it out because she didn’t have the money for college. I told her that I never knew of anyone who wanted to go to college who didn’t manage to get the funds. I said, “Fill it out! What do you have to lose?” She was accepted and during that summer got a good job as a full-time babysitter. Her grandmother gave her some money, and Barbara managed to work part-time while attending college and even managed an apartment building for her rent. She became a very successful special education teacher, who not only taught severely disabled teenagers but also helped them to get jobs and live independently.

My son also had a friend who hung out at our house. His mother had died and his father had remarried. Dan had been living at home while attending college. One day he showed up at our house, down in the mouth and depressed. He came into the kitchen to talk with me. He didn’t know whether to move out or continue living with his dad and his new wife. If he left, he would need to quit school to work full-time to support himself. I advised him to stay at home and in college until he finished. He did and got a very good job.

People have always believed that I have special powers of concentration, especially concerning employment. They tell me what time their job interview is going to be and ask me to concentrate. My grandson just called the other night to let me know that his fiancée got the job she wanted and to thank me for concentrating. It’s not that I really have any special powers, but my concentrating stimulates them to believe in themselves and pushes them toward success; for all things are possible for he or she who believes.