April 28, 2006 | A very good friend of mine is a survivor of incredible magnitude. As a little girl, with dimples as sweet as her spirit, she lived in unbearable living conditions, was woefully neglected and, as just a toddler, was left to fend for herself. She remembers crawling on the ground, everywhere, looking for anything possible to eat. Yet most terrifying of all she suffered horrific abuse by a long string of violent, evil men. All with her mother's acquiescence. The details are such that you, like me, would be moved to tears in their hearing.

This was her life, day after day, until her grade school years when she was finally removed from the hunger and abuse, and was placed in a new home. Yet if you meet her today, you would be greeted by unbounded smiles, sweetened generosity, deep friendship, unlimited curiosity, artistic flair, great intellect, and compassion. Her home is beautifully bright and lovingly attended with a bright white swing in the front that offers a chance to catch your breath under the sun. In the back yard, the shade of towering trees welcomes a weary heart after a long day. Those who know her would never guess the destructive winds that crossed her path early in life. Her laugh sparks at the slightest glimmer of fun and her generosity is triggered at the very moment that someone else's hope starts to slip.

I ask myself, especially on days where the dreary opponents seem to punch more severely, how does she keep smiling and laughing, giving and forgiving, when experiences have seared her memories with unbearably black clouds? The answer is her unbounded Faith in what is not only sweet and caring, but also deeply strong. Thus, her generosity of spirit exceeds many whose lives have treated them far more gently. In the end, her love defines her beauty, not the passing winds of her past.

Recently, I had an experience that sent me collapsed and crying. Immediately, despite an enormous blow of illness in her life, arriving in my mailbox was a couple of cards from her offering what I needed in spirit. On one card was a Churchill quote, "When you are going through Hell, Keep Going." Inside she wrote in her usual spirited handwriting, "Hugs to You during your frustrating times that bring you to tears. May you continue to experience both the joys and upsets in life. Joys to keep our spirits lifted and tears to keep us grounded within our humanness. Most of all, may you share in the laughter that both extremes may encompass." Both cards sit on my kitchen counter as a reminder that one doesn't need to be blown out at the knees because of someone else's bitter cynicism or callous actions.

Sometimes I reflect, and it amazes me: a girl who was so terribly hurt has risen not only as a survivor, but also as a leader who offers faith and hope to others, not to mention enduring love. With perseverance and dedication to a dream, she put herself through one of the top universities to become a wonderful oncology nurse, offering those who are sick a helping hand and a generous smile, encouraging her patients' spirits to rise to their intended potential. She knows more than anyone what must be offered to rejuvenate a smile.

Not only that, but recently she is a start-up entrepreneur with a patented and innovative design for a product that will help deliver oncology treatments more effectively. In pursuing this, she is again offering those who are hurt, something better. As a result of this inspiration, she is planning a foundation that will offer a unique design for generating a chain reaction of generosity.

So, for those who despair about the adorable children born into painful circumstances, who express no hope for your life as a result, you need not follow their negativity and defeat, or fall prey to their despair. Instead, you can follow my friend's life.

When life deals you a gut-wrenching punch and knocks you down by the forces of pain, evil, anger or abuse, you may crumble and cry, wondering: how did this happen? Let my friend's story be a reminder that out of the pits of evil can surface a love that is stronger than most people will ever know. Remember that pure, modest love doesn't necessarily come from perfectly white, untroubled lives. In fact, it never really does. Yet it does necessitate attention to your heart which remains beautiful, loving, caring, sweet, and pure, even if there are people out there whose sole purpose is searching out purity and attempting to destroy it.

Do know that you are a survivor. Your purity even more so; it survives those who try to crush it. Be strong, be careful, and remember your love can survive unexpected and unwanted punches, and despite the painful impact of lame-hearted foes, your sweetness is always be ready to be shared and adored. The world needs your vibrant smile -- you have a beautiful one. The world needs your laughter - you have a contagious one. And rest assured: that your contribution will be incredibly beautiful as you follow that wonderfully positive, smiling spirit you have within.


Jeannine Kellogg, based in Minneapolis, has a Masters in Business Administration and works in the technology field. Outside of work she enjoys writing, travel, and teaching piano.




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