Note: This is the first in a series of guest articles generously shared with RCA called Writing Wellness. The topics will vary, but we hope that each will provide insight and interest, shedding light on topics old and new.
This article first appeared on Susan’s personal blog, Teatime Reader.
by Susan Tjernagel
Homeless…drug addict…intellectually challenged…gang member…prison inmate…alcoholic…mental hospital resident…abused, neglected, and abandoned…juvenile delinquent…What images scroll across your mind when you read these words? What do you think about these individuals? Not exactly found in the same sentence describing our heroes, are they?
Well, let me tell you, I have been with these incredible people for a week and they have become my heroes. Each and every one of these unique, beautiful, strong human beings I’ve had the privilege to meet and spend eight hours a day with for five days now have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to become the people they are today, serving and helping others. I am humbled and awed. I will never be the same.
Some words to live by that I’ve filled my notebook with and seek to live by:
“I turn my life into a tool to help others.”
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
“By listening well, we are saying, ‘I’m really interested in you.’”
“The cutting edge of knowledge is not in the knowing, it is in the questioning.” Ralph Thompson
“There is beauty and purity in sitting in silence with one person for 5 minutes. When we are silent, we give people space. Stay connected in the silence.”
Home owners…college graduates…business owners…professionals…helping others…community engaged…What images now flash across the screen in your mind? Would you believe these words describe the same individuals as the first sentence above? They do.
Is there anything we can not overcome? Any degree of trauma that deals only a life sentence of misery, hopelessness and despair? Impossible situations where change is not an option? A life only to dream about but never to actually experience? And the answer is…NO!
And the incredible thing is this: the spark of power necessary to begin to move a person out of these places often belongs to you and me. In story after story I have heard, small steps of change began with the positive words of another. In contrast to all the other negative messages and declarations about their lives and who they were, the words expressing belief in them and the consistent corresponding actions over time made a huge difference. We are all important players in each other’s lives, for good or for bad. Can we choose the good?
The individual’s own decision to change their life beginning with one small step cannot be ignored. It is huge. The spark may be ignited by another, but the ultimate power is within. And it is strong. It cannot be snuffed out. Giving up becomes “not an option” anymore.
In other stories I heard, the determination to create a different life came from refusing to settle for where they were and had been for too long. Goals were made. Small steps were taken. But others were needed to help make changes. We will always need each other. We were created so.
Superheroes. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman…and so the list could go on and on. Fighting against evil. Rescuing. Saving. Answering the call for help. They always win. Good always triumphs over bad. In the end, children cheer, whoop and holler and want to collect all they can of these wonderful heroes (grown-ups too!).
The world would tell me I don’t know the definition of a hero if I would give them my list. Actually, I just have. Hopefully, they might listen, think about it and perhaps begin to change their mind a bit. Who are your heroes?