On this Blog I will be posting things that people are doing to make this world a better place. In the comment section of each post I would like you to tell me about things you have done to make the lives of those around you better. It could be something as simple as buying someone in need a hot meal. Any of the things you put in the comments section will be posted on this Blog.
Request for (10) cards: Send a self addressed, stamped envelope to:
4710 Farming Ridge Blvd.
Reading, Pa. 19606
Request for (10) cards: Send a self addressed, stamped envelope to:
4710 Farming Ridge Blvd.
Reading, Pa. 19606
Thursday, June 16, 2011
I wrote this story about a unique and special woman for another blog. Sarah isn’t her real name, but her story is true. Periodically on this blog I am going to write about real people who have changed their own lives as well as those around them. The “Promise Cards,” aren’t just for other people. They are also for you as well. We should not just make promises to others; we should make them to ourselves. Only by helping ourselves first, by loving ourselves, and becoming better people, can we then reach out to others and make promises. Maybe you’ll recognize a little of yourself in Sarah. I hope you enjoy what Sarah has accomplished, how she has made herself a better person, and how she has made the lives of those around her better.
If you were to see Sarah striding confidently down the street attired in a simple, but stylish business suit, with her long blond hair blowing in the wind, and an ever present smile on her face you would most likely stop and take a second look. She is not what society would call a classic beauty. She is tall with shoulders a little too broad, and a large frame which carries just a little excess weight. Her face is unremarkable. It’s the kind of face that’s pleasant and average. We see them every day. Except for the bright blue eyes which seem to shine even at night, you might not even notice her features. Yet, there seems to be something unique and special about her. It's hard to put your finger on it. She seems to carry herself with a subtle, yet obvious grace, and a sense of purpose which at first glance is hard to define. She is heading to her job as a fashion designer in one of the towering buildings up ahead. She is just starting out, but her designs have been widely acclaimed, and she has been deemed a rising star in the fashion world.
As she nears a corner she slows as she approaches an elderly woman dressed in an assortment of mismatched clothing which look like they had seen better days. The homeless woman wearily rests against a shopping cart which holds all her possessions. As Sarah approaches, she stands straighter, and eyes which only minutes before had seemed dull and lifeless now shine with life. A thin smile creases her mouth as Sarah greets her. "Mary, you're looking good today," Sarah says as her long arms embrace Mary's small and slender frame in a tender hug. "I feel good, though my arthritis slows me down a little on cold days like this" says Mary. Sarah reaches into her bag, and pulls out a small sack and hands it to Mary. "I have your favorite today; roast beef on rye with swiss and a little mayo." The sack also contains water bottles, candy bars, an apple, a bottle of aspirin, and a few crisp bills hidden at the bottom. As Sarah leaves, Mary watches her move swiftly away and doesn't look in the sack until Sarah has turned the corner a block away. The same thin smile remains on her face, long after Sarah is gone.
Let’s take a look at Sarah’s life, and what has led her to this point. Looking at Sarah today you would never realize the hard life she has endured. Sarah as a child was neglected and physically abused by her drug addicted parents, and was eventually sent to a series of temporary foster homes until she was eighteen. Out on her own in the world, Sarah found herself lost and alone, often homeless, and involved in multiple relationships which lead not to the love and acceptance she craved, but to a recurring pattern of physical and mental abuse. Eventually she married a man whose days were spent sleeping, and his nights in the seedy back alleys of the city as he sold and used drugs. He never physically hurt her, but sometimes emotional abuse can be much worse. Stuck in a loveless relationship, Sarah whose self esteem had hit rock bottom began to abuse her body. She started with alcohol, then it was drugs which were always readily available, and then with food. She found that food was an escape from her day to day problems. As her weight continued to grow, her self esteem continued to plummet and a sense of depression and hopelessness descended on her.
Her husband’s life of crime eventually caught up with him. He was arrested and convicted of selling drugs, and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Sarah had her marriage annulled, and then returned to a life as dead and lifeless as ever. Sarah spent most of her time, alone in a small apartment where her weight continued to rise as she took comfort in the one thing that seemed to give her pleasure, and helped to dull the pain just a little; food. She was hospitalized several times with weight related issues including high blood pressure and the onset of diabetes. On most days Sarah would sit in her apartment and think about her life and continue to eat. Once in awhile she would look in the mirror, and all she would see was ugliness. She often wondered how anyone could ever love someone like her. It was no wonder her parents had always called her ugly and would tell her what a bad person she was. She often thought how easy it would be to end it all. She still had those pills the doctors at the hospital had prescribed for her. She was just one life among many. If she left this world, no one would miss her. There would be no one to mourn her passing. Her death would be easy and painless. As she held the small bottle in her hand, she heard what seemed like a light, but frantic knocking at her door.
Opening her apartment door, she looked down into the eyes of a young girl who couldn't have been older than nine or ten. She was small and thin with an unruly head of blond and curly hair. Her thread bare clothes looked like they had come from thrift shops and hadn't been recently cleaned. "Could you help me please," said the girl. "My mommas on the floor and I can't wake her up." Sarah almost closed the door, but something about the little girls face made her stop. It was a face which though still a child's appeared wise beyond its years. It seemed to contain fear and pain, but also intelligence and determination. Sarah realized that it was almost like looking at her own face from when she was a child. Sarah dialed 911, and then waited outside the young girl’s apartment until help arrived. The paramedics determined that the little girl’s mother had overdosed on drugs, but would be fine. As the girls’ mother was carried away on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance, Sarah made a decision which was to change her life. She lied to the police about being the girl’s aunt, and the child was allowed to stay with her until the mother was released from the hospital. Sarah learned that the little girl's name was Tiffany Ann Morningstar. She also realized that Tiffany like her was not only alone in the world, but was a survivor. She had survived a drug addicted mother who spends her days selling her body for her next fix. She had survived loneliness, and the taunts of children at school, who routinely make fun of her clothes as well as the lunches she packs for herself from whatever she can find.
Sarah's apartment becomes Tiffany’s second home. It becomes a refuge, and a safe haven from the fear, pain and loneliness that her life had become. Tiffany’s mom doesn’t even notice when she is gone. Her life continues on its downward spiral of drugs and different Johns. Sarah begins to go shopping. She looks for healthy foods that a growing young girl would like. She fixes Tiffany breakfast each morning and packs her a lunch for school. After school they have dinner together, and Sarah helps with homework. On weekends Tiffany stays over, and they stay up late together watching movies, eating carrots and fruit, and talking for hours. On Sundays they take walks in the park and feed the pigeons. Healing begins. It is a healing not just for Tiffany, but for Sarah as well. Her life slowly, but surely begins to have meaning and purpose. She has someone who loves her and needs her. She throws the prescription drugs in the trash. She starts to notice that her clothes appear to be looser. She has been losing weight, and her health is slowly but surely improving. She starts taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Yesterday morning she helped old Mrs. Simms in apartment 3-A bring in her groceries. They have coffee together. It becomes a daily routine as they talk for hours. Sarah begins to help Mrs. Simms who has bad arthritis with shopping, cleaning, and errands. Mrs. Simms used to be a seamstress and still has an old sewing machine. She teaches Sarah all she knows. Sarah buys the latest fashion magazines and practices for hours. She buys material and makes outfits for Tiffany to wear to school. Tiffany has begun to make friends and they sometimes come to Sarah's apartment after school. Tiffany also helps with Mrs. Simms, and the three of them have become almost like a family.
As the months have passed, Sarah has felt rejuvenated. It seems that she has found meaning and purpose in her life. Sarah has changed not just on the outside with the loss of over one hundred pounds, a different hairstyle, and a new wardrobe, but on the inside as well. She is finally realizing how wonderful life can be if we just open ourselves up to others. She has learned that she is not only capable of loving those around her, but of being loved as well. Now, when Sarah looks in the mirror she still doesn’t see the face and body of the fashion models in the magazines she reads, but she doesn't see ugliness. She sees the face of someone she likes. She looks at a woman with a bright future who has so much to offer and is only now spreading her wings to fly and take on the world. She finds herself smiling more and starting conversations with strangers. She is just now learning that she has a gift for listening and putting people at ease. She has friends who call her and ask how she's doing. They all say she looks great, and ask how much weight she's lost. A nice man who lives in apartment 3-G asked her out on a date. She hasn't decided yet whether she'll accept. Mrs. Simms says he's a nice, polite man, and Tiffany says he's pretty cute. She may go out with him, but she's been so busy lately. She's been volunteering for Meals on Wheels on Mondays and Wednesdays, she is a classroom aide on Fridays at Tiffany's school, and she just landed an interview next week for a job as an assistant’s assistant to a famous clothing designer at an up-town fashion house. The job brings new meaning to the phrase; "starting at the bottom." It doesn't matter though. Sarah has faith in her abilities, and has even started taking evening classes at the local community college.
In quiet moments of reflection Sarah will think back to her past and how it seems only yesterday that she was alone in her apartment staring at a bottle of prescription medicine. Now she has people who love her and need her. She has meaning and purpose in her life. She takes the time to say a short prayer, takes a deep breath and thinks of what's next. She hears the phone ring, and rushes to pick it up. "Hello, Maggie. Are you okay? You sound a little down. If you need someone to talk to I can be there in five minutes."