My Hope and How I Was Changed

At times I have dug a pretty deep hole for myself but fortunately the holes I’ve dug were never in the shape of a grave. No matter how deep I was, I have always known where my Creator placed the, just long enough, rope ladder to begin the climb out and I’m thankful for that. Many times people have shouted and with the best intentions told me, how to raise myself up. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve found, that the best way up and to the place where the view’s the best, is via that old reliable rope ladder.

 My hope for all has been that each person would find their own reliable rope ladder and raise themselves up. My belief as to how this is done however has changed. I have come to realize that just because someone is not already on their own way up, it is not always because they are lazy or just want a free handout. I used to think, “if they would just get a job, their problems would be solved”.  Now I know sometimes it’s not that simple.

 I have learned it takes an open heart and genuine love to enable some to climb upon that first rung and many have helped me. 

 I didn’t know this until I was invited in to observe the orientation of a group of new students that were part of a program to get women off welfare. I had a lot to learn.

 The reason I was there was because I had just finished a month long course in human excellence training. It taught me how to recognize and uncover strategies that are being used to get a particular result. A friend of mine asked me to call this woman who had a problem. She was running a school and getting incredible results. A very high percentage of women that went though her program got off welfare and stayed off welfare even after three years. So I thought – where’s the problem?

 The problem was, word of her school reached Washington and a few people were going to be meeting with her to find out how she was getting these incredible results, so they could duplicate them nationwide. She said to me, “I don’t know what I do, I just do it.”

 The timing was perfect – a new class was starting soon and the orientation was just a few days away.  The big day came and I had a seat in the room. She asked that each woman sitting around the table introduce themselves and tell the group what they wanted to get out of the program. Each woman said their first name and made a short statement as to why they were there.

 Moving around the table I could see one woman getting more and more anxious until when it came time for her to speak, she abruptly got up and without saying a word, she ran out of the room. The introductions wrapped up and through the coming weeks I learned many of the womans’ stories.

 All of the women were on public assistance and some had been, for generations.  One woman said, “I’m on welfare, my mom is on welfare and my grandmother, when she was living, was on welfare, it’s all I’ve ever known”.  Most agreed, they felt bad and ashamed for living off the government and other people’s money, but felt they had no choice.  One woman had five young children – who were being watched by her mother while she was in the course.

 As time went on I learned the personal stories of these women who, when we first met, were just faces around a table whom I had pre-judged. In time, my judgment faded and the school was having an effect on my heart in ways I did not expect. I thought I was the expert there to observe and yet, I too had become a student. This student witnessed the blossoming of some gifts that were always there on the inside.  My compassion grew and it was soon joined by a genuine desire to see each one succeed.  I too, was cheering them on and before my eyes, a transformation was taking place.

 But how was this done?

 Our teacher masterfully painted a picture in the minds and hearts of her students – let me rephrase that – our teacher masterfully showed each student how to paint their own beautiful and unique picture inside themselves.  As she taught them computer and other job related skills, she then had them replay those vivid self-image pictures over and over again in their minds until they became believable and real. 

 She would ask them questions like, “How do you see yourself here or in that situation? How about next week, next year, five years from now? Now imagine yourself talking to your boss, what are you saying as you’re standing there? How are you dressed, how are you standing, are you smiling? How do you feel knowing you did that, so well?  These questions were not part of a “process” they were sprinkled here and there and were just  part of the normal way she lovingly spoke.

 Over eight short weeks these women were changed, I was changed.

 It was time for the graduation ceremony where the woman were to get their certificates for their achievement.  Many of the womens’ loved ones were present – mostly moms, sisters and kids. I video taped the ceremony as these woman, as confident and proud as could be, gave thanks to their teacher who sat just as proud, in the front row.

 On the tape you can hear the sniffles from one student, who just might have been the most changed of all – me – behind the camera, listening and seeing the same woman, who just a couple short months before, ran out of the room at the orientation.

 No longer timid and ashamed, she – with her shoulders back and head held high, sang the most incredible Amazing Grace I have ever heard. We all were moved and with that, another group of students were changed – and well on their way.

 Thank you to L. and to all the women, for letting me be a part of your class and most of all – thanks for changing me.

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Published on August 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

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