Making a Difference to Just One

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A while back a friend talked to me about her desire to make a difference in the lives of others by getting her “story” out there. That story consists of almost being murdered by her ex-husband. No one–as in not one–not even the doctors, expected her to survive. But survive she did! She’s truly a miracle. In fact she didn’t only survive, she’s by far one of the most positive, smiling, happy, and grateful people I know. Those who know her are blessed indeed.

During this talk we had, she was somewhat discouraged. She wanted to help so many and felt like she was reaching no one. Writing a book was at the top of her list, but anyone who is an author knows writing a book and getting it out there takes a long time. Because of her generous heart and caring spirit, she wanted to help people now. What she didn’t realize, and what I pointed out to her, is that she was helping people–every single day, and that each one she touches, is so important. She’s a first responder victim’s advocate, offering on-the-scene support to victims of crime. She’s won awards for all that she’s accomplished and does because of what she’s been through, using her experience for good. She speaks to groups of people, letting them know that nothing is too big to be overcome. She motivates, inspires, and brings joy.

Every. Single. Day.

Each of us that had a role in the prosecution of her case has been forever touched by her.

Fast forward nine months:

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I got a message from her the other day that said “Oh my God, you’re Alexandra Benn!” She proceeded to tell me that her therapist lent her two books, one of which was my book that I wrote under a pseudonym, Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing from Trauma and Finding Joy in Every MomentShe went on to tell me what a difference the book has made in her life and that she didn’t know it was me until she saw my picture on the back. I’d even seen a photo she posted on social media of her chair at the pool with a bottle of water and a copy of the book.

Imagine my joy. I was moved to tears. The advice I’d given her months before came back full circle. And her voicing the difference my book made to her, made a difference to me.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo every April and July. This particular July, however, I’ve been preoccupied with life–vacation to Minnesota visiting family, chaos relating to my husband’s job, and surgery last week on my heart. Progress on my Camp NaNo project just wasn’t happening. But knowing my words made such an impact on this woman, one person, was all it took to get me back to it with gusto. Will I make my Camp NaNo goal? I don’t know. But I do know that knowing my words make a difference, that they bring me such joy to write–well, my friends, that’s all that matters. That I made a difference to one. Because that one is a woman who is beyond amazing.

And now I’m back off to Camp to keep on keepin’ on, despite reaching my goal or not. Whatever I write is that much more that I didn’t have at the end of June.

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.
-Mother Teresa

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
-Mother Teresa

Thankful Thursday – The Luxury of Education

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I was at a COVA (Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance) Conference for work up in the mountains this week, in beautiful Keystone, Colorado. While I sat on the balcony of my hotel room writing this it occurred to me–right after I recovered from the surprise of looking up and seeing a big, fat, black crow with an imposing fat beak and beady eyes, like he came directly from a Halloween horror movie, sitting and staring at me from no more than five feet away, which led me to finish this inside of my hotel room — that education is something so many of us take for granted, while it is truly a luxury.

The classes I attended ranged in diversity from The Victims of Cults to Elder Abuse and Mandatory Reporting to A Survivor’s Story of Trauma and Beyond, followed by walks around beautiful Keystone Lake and on trails in the woods to digest, ponder, and process the information.  And as I walked I realized those classes taught me far more than what they were intended to.  Not only were they educational for my career, but for life in general.

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The top educational takeaways I received from the conference are:

1.)  Five people can hear the same exact words, but depending on where each is in life, or what each is going through, there will be five different perceptions of the same message.  For instance, years ago I heard an instructor say that after a crime, the victim will never return to normal as s/he once knew normal to be, but s/he will develop a new normal.  As someone who works with victims of crime, that insight had always stayed with me.  However, when I found myself the victim become survivor of a crime, I struggled to make sense of that sentence, and it meant something completely different.

When we, the class participants, spoke with one another between classes or at meal times, it was educational in and of itself what each got from the same class. One conversation made me feel like we were in different classes, when in reality we were hearing the same speaker at the same time.

2.)  Each and every person has so much to bring to the table–diversity, backgrounds, experiences, perspectives–that rather than cut your own experience and opportunity to learn off at the knees, limiting your potential growth, accept each person for exactly who they are, appreciating what they’re bringing to the table, rather than close your mind by judging them as different. Fight the urge to judge, and allow each difference to enrich your life.

3.)  Something a very dear friend once told me, and that was reinforced by listening to conference speakers and participants: Sometimes what we go through in life seems hard because it IS hard. Simple as that.

4.)  When the end of something fun is nearing (ie: the last evening/day of the conference, the last couple days of a vacation, the senses awaken, trying to experience all one possibly can, so as not to waste a single minute. Since each day of one’s life is one day closer to the last, none of us knowing when that day will be, wouldn’t it benefit us to live each day as if it were the last, living and experiencing life to fullest?

5.)  Your past does not need to determine your present or your future.  You have the control to make the choice to change and make your life a better place.

6.)  Not wanting to hang with the group does not make one “anti-social” or a “snob”.  Some people are truly comfortable with their own company and enjoy processing life in a solitary manner or with close friends and family.  The next time you see someone sitting alone in a restaurant or at a movie, don’t pity them and assume they’re lonely. Chances are good they are there alone by choice.

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By the time I had finished writing this, the earlier mentioned crow kept flying low over my balcony, eventually perching in a space all too close to the chair I had been planted in only a moment before.  It would have served him well to read number six–I was alone by choice, and his company was not welcome. 🙂

All is Grace

Celebrate Life

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For too many years I’ve stepped into the month of July somewhat reluctantly, and raced to the finish line when it came close to being over, eagerly welcoming August, holding my breath, hoping an unwanted phone call wouldn’t slide in at 11:59 p.m. on July 31st.

July 3rd marked an anniversary of being a victim of a crime that changed my life forever.  Changed the way I saw things and viewed the world in general.  Despite it being a long time ago, it has shaped my life to this day.

July 14th marks the 4th anniversary that we lost our family dog of thirteen years.  In his last moments we lay in the grass in the back yard, him fighting for every breath, me making sure he was taking each breath.  Until he breathed his last the moment I lay him down to leave for just a moment. DSC00036

July 16th marks eight years since I lost my stepdaughter, Becky, who was also one of my dearest friends, in a tragic event.  An event that hangs over me like a black cloud of sadness and anxiety.  And even guilt.  In fact, a lot of guilt.

July 29th marks seven years since I got the phone call while at a Rockies baseball game that my 17-year-old son had an accident at the city pool and was en route to the hospital with a head injury.

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A lot of anniversaries that are not cause for celebration.

But as time travels on, I’ve been able to look at it this year as a reason to celebrate life.  The lives tied to each of these anniversaries have blessed my life beyond words.  To celebrate what they have added to my life, and to celebrate the lives of those I love who are still in my life.

July 3rd? A reason to celebrate turning victimization into being a survivor.  To honor that by helping other victims walk the path that crosses over to being a survivor, reclaiming their lives.  To forgive so that I no longer give my power to the attacker, but take back that power and use it for good

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NIV)

July 14th I can celebrate the memory of a family dog who helped my boys and me with many transitions from moving to another state to offering comfort during a painful divorce.  And I can celebrate our pound puppy, Roxie, who was nearing the end of her stay at the shelter and the joy she brings.

Jenny & BeckyJuly 16th I can celebrate the beautiful woman who was my stepdaughter.  Who taught me true beauty comes from within.  Who’s glitter and smile lit up a room before she even walked in.  I can thank God for bringing us together to share our lives for the time we did have together and be so incredibly grateful that we will be together again someday because of my Jesus who made that possible.  God made me a very rich woman the day he brought her into my life.

July 29th I will celebrate the fact that my son is still with us.  Healthy, happy and whole.  I will cherish his life and the lives of each and every member of my family.  And I thank God for keeping him here with me.  I will hold them closer and take that moment from feeling like I have to DO something and just BE with them.  Every single day is a blessing, for we don’t know what tomorrow holds.

Only because of the grace of God, I have the desire to turn July from a month of mourning to a month of celebration.  A time of gratitude for this amazing life I’ve been given.  For every person who has seasoned my life to perfection along the way.DSC00716

Instead of mourning what I no longer have or what I nearly lost, I will celebrate what I was so blessed to have and the life I still have.   Amen? Amen!

All is Grace.