Friday, August 27, 2010

My Precious Journey

Recently I came through a level 5 tornado, but not in the weather sense. It took place in my personal life. Although I suffered damage, I survived. Barely. Now I am in the rebuilding stage—starting over. Finally, many months later, I find I am blossoming. I am on a journey to recover me and find hope for my future. In bed at night, I think back over my life and remember who I once was…..

When I was a young woman, not yet out of high school, I knew I wanted to contribute significantly in some way to make the difference in someone’s life. Back then, people looked to others who were humanitarians rather than the music or Hollywood industry like some do today. My role model was Tom Dooley and Albert Schweitzer. Both men were brilliant doctors who gave up a life of ease to live in third world harsh conditions in order to bring health and hope to others; (American) Dr. Dooley in Cambodia and (German) Dr. Schweitzer in Gabon, Africa. I read voraciously about them and knew God was calling me to do something special. It was then I decided to be an overseas missionary. I told these plans to my mother, who looked up at me from her knitting with an odd expression of disquiet on her face. “There are people in our own nation who need help too.”

Really? After all, I lived in an affluent household. The front of our antique house faced Lake Delavan. From the age of thirteen I had my own speed boat. I might have been too young to drive a car, but on the water, I was master. My closet brimmed with stylish clothes. I lacked for nothing—I couldn’t grasp that people in my own country might need help. Up to that time I thought the only really poor people lived elsewhere, faraway, perhaps, on the other side of the world where no one but God, or a missionary could see them.

So began my interest in the Native Americans who lived on reservations.

I found the name of the director of Indian Affairs at Menominee Falls, Wisconsin. After several weeks of conversing with her, she gave me the names of children who would enjoy gifts for Christmas, and might not get any, any other way (an early form of the angel tree). My mother and I went shopping for the children, and I also bought my then boyfriend’s Christmas gift which was a standard plaid shirt. We got home, wrapped it all up and shipped off the gifts to the reservation. A few nights later, Rusty came over to give me his gifts, a locket and perfume. When I went to get his gift, I discovered it was missing! Mother and I searched high and low for it. Then it dawned on me. Mistakenly, we had sent it to the reservation with the other gifts. That incident soon turned into a Christmas family story.

Now, decades later, I am not any closer to stepping onto a reservation than I was long ago. Sometimes I dream a dream that I am teaching on a one, but then I look around at where I am. I love my job as the Special Education Coordinator at an alternative program for my county. My office is in the supply portable where I sit beside shelves of black army boots and green fatigues. Like beauty and money, a few dreams have passed me by. But when I work with troubled teens, who have been expelled from school, or court ordered to be here, I know I couldn’t be at a better place. Where I belong.

Somewhere my dreams and reality have collided. Some for the better, yet, I wonder about those dreams while I gaze into the mirror. In real life I am a small boned-woman with soft hands. In summer I wear over-sized t-shirts to bed and skinny jeans during the day. Naturally, my face has more wrinkles than it did ten years ago and I refuse to touch up my hair with dyes anymore. I look at my last driver’s license picture and wonder who that person was. I look at my recent driver’s license picture and think I look like someone who has been apprehended for drunk driving and resisted arrest on my way to having my picture took. (No, that did NOT happen. I don’t drink and I work with police officers, don’t tangle or tango with them).

And this is the first bit of writing I have done in half a year. I hope and pray it’s my precious journey back to it as I remember that today belongs to me. It’s all mine. And God’s.

Each morning, when I arise, I look for a bit of hope and live my life in it.