Life is hard, even when we do our best to live and play by the rules, but it’s even harder when we don’t live by the rules. Such is the case of a true story that I want to tell you about of a young woman whose life got terribly off course and then, years later, was able to use her personal tragedy to help someone else.
Be forewarned that what I am going to share with you will sound like a real-life soap opera but it is real life, and sadly, far too many people live this kind of lifestyle each day and with every breath they take. With permission to use it in a column, this true story comes from Patty who lives over in the great state of Oklahoma. She was out in her yard one day recently when a neighbor hollered over the fence, “I don’t know what you said to my daughter in your letter, but it worked. She did not leave and is now working in a poultry plant.”
What Patty had done was to write this lady’s daughter a straight-from-the-heart letter about the mess she had made in her own life and was pleading with her not to make the same mistakes.
Before I tell you what was in Patty’s letter, let me give you a little of her history so you will know where she is coming from. Some real insights came when she says, “My husband just came in the house. I think he was going to get his habit of choice and I interfered because he didn’t know I was here. He thought I’d left for work. He drinks. We don’t talk about it because he told me he stopped drinking a year ago. He hasn’t. I work so I can compare myself to someone other than a man who lies to me. That is what alcoholics do. I mess up. I still think badly of myself. Now I know I can help just one person (she is referring to the neighbor’s daughter) so I had better cut it out.
“I am writing to you because I was totally honest with another human being and it did not kill me. Maybe I’m too honest, but I have yet to read in the Bible about being too honest. It says to be honest. So I was. And I gained so much because of it.”
You see, Patty was totally honest with this young lady she wrote to. She begins by saying, “When I was your age, I left home with a guy that I knew for less than a day. I met him in a night club. I was mad at my dad. We got in a fight and he called me names and I called him things, too. I left. It changed my life beyond anything I could have imagined.
“A nightmare ensued. A nightmare that I created. Regardless of how much we would like to blame someone else for what we do in our lives, ultimately it’s our own hand, mind and heart that directs us. I packed up everything I owned and implored this man to take me with him. He did. We took a bus to his apartment in northern Chicago. We placed all the possessions I owned in the bus depot there. In lockers. I never saw any of it again. We arrived at his apartment. He was an ex-outlaw biker. I didn’t realize I was pregnant. Not until the morning of the day he beat me. Almost to a pulp. Almost to death. He was high.
“He took me to places no human being should ever have to go. Nor should you. I didn’t know him. I wasted five years being paranoid, poor and pathetic after that. I lost the baby. I was told I had to have an abortion as the baby would not live through the beating he and I went through. The second time I got pregnant after this I gave him up for adoption. I couldn’t seem to get my stuff together. After that I had my tubes tied. I did not want to kill nor bring into the world a human being I couldn’t take care of.”
There is much more just as bizarre, but at the end of her letter Patty shares some positive things from her heart with Shanell, her neighbor’s daughter, that causes her to have second thoughts about moving to Wisconsin to live with someone she met over the Internet.
She concludes by saying, “I wanted you to know the after-effects are long and serious. I also wanted you to know there’s much better we can do with our lives. You have a wonderful heart and soul. I hope you make decisions you can be proud of. Not ones that can destroy and undermine your spirit. I wish you the best in whatever you want to do ... but to do them to escape an undesirable situation don’t help you. If I had cared about myself those many years ago, I would not have put myself in harm’s way like I did. Repeatedly. I learned that I am worth keeping. I am worth keeping. So are you, Shanell. So are you.”
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)