The Human Experience: The Power of Love.... Debbie's Story
About once a year I hear some extremist preaching that Mankind will cease to exist on such and such a date. We are inhumane to each other; we are destroying the planet; we are raping and pillaging and plundering to our heart’s content and it will all come to an end soon. Mother Earth will finally have had enough and a cataclysmic event will eliminate us and all that will be left are cockroaches, or God will smite us down for our failures and transgressions.
I read in the newspapers about the murders and the ethnic cleansing and the abuse and, like you, I feel great sadness. It seems so hard to believe that a species that could achieve such greatness could also stoop to the lowest levels of morality. I understand why some find it so hard to have hope and I understand in a particular fashion those who believe that it will all end soon.
However, I have preferred in recent years to concentrate on the positives that I see. As you may know by now I love the acronym PIPO….Positive In Positive Out. If all I did was concentrate on the negatives in life there would be no happiness in my life and then life really would be a tragic affair. Rather I watch the world around me and observe the people who share this planet with me and I take a little something out of every positive experience that I observe.
There will always be those who see nothing but the negative. I feel sorry for them because life is wonderful; the people in my life are beautiful and courageous and stunning in their determination to claw out a place of their own where they can love and foster all that is good about mankind.
Today I bring you the story of one of my former students; her name has been changed but for the time being let’s call her Debbie.
I met Debbie about sixteen or seventeen years ago. She was my student in middle school and a more shy person you will never meet. Painfully shy are the words that come to mind when I think of Debbie in those days; the pain was at times visible on her face as she tried desperately to fit in with the other kids in class. She had self-esteem problems to the max but thankfully she found one or two other kids who she befriended. I would always find Debbie and her best friend Monica sitting on the playground away from the other kids and I always made it a point to go visit them when I had the chance, just to say hello and in some small way to let them know that they counted every bit as much as the outgoing, boisterous crowd that would not let them join.
I remember in particular graduation day when the 8th graders lined up for pictures and how beautiful Debbie and Monica looked and yet the happiness that should have been on their faces was somehow missing and the smiles forced. It was as though they sensed that the hard days were just beginning and they had only turned over one page in a full-length novel that would have a sad ending.
THE YEARS MARCH BY
I lost track of Debbie after that as she went on to high school; I do recall her visiting my classroom a time or two while in high school but once high school was over for her she faded from my life.
One day I was working at a job as a manager of a UHaul business and to my complete surprise in walked Debbie. By that time she must have been twenty-one or so and my first impression upon seeing her was that the unhappiness I had seen in school had only grown with the years. We made small talk and she told me a little about her life but managed to leave out the important things. She left that day after giving me a sad smile; she managed to stop in a few more times after that with the same scene replaying, small talk, sad smiles, a quick goodbye.
THE REAL STORY
I have found out since then that Debbie had a fairly tough go of it during those years. Drugs and alcohol managed to be her friends, an attempt to fill in psychological and emotional holes that had only grown deeper as the years passed. Along the way there was a succession of not-so-nice boyfriends, eventually culminating in an abusive husband. She told me once that no matter how hard she tried she could not please him, that she gave her heart and soul into finding ways to make him happy but in the end her efforts were for naught.
The bright spot in her life was her daughter, the spitting image of Debbie in looks and personality. Lisa is every bit as shy as her mother and appears not to believe that she has a beauty that others can see but remains invisible to her.
Through all of the pain and the endless days of looking for happiness Debbie remained a loving and devoted mother. I will forever be amazed at the depth of love a mother has for her child and Debbie certainly personified that truth while raising her daughter, more often than not without the help of the father.
TODAY IS ABOUT CELEBRATION
I re-connected with Debbie through Facebook a few years ago. We began to correspond on a regular basis and her story had changed dramatically. Although still struggling through the final days of her marriage she began to show a determination to carve out a better life for her and Lisa. She began to exercise and lost over fifty pounds and the pictures and words that I saw on Facebook showed a young woman who was coming to grips with her reality and who decided to change that reality for the better.
She began to call me one of her Supermen, someone who has always been there for her, and each email ends now with “I love you Mr. Holland.”
The story of Debbie has just begun and there are exciting chapters ahead for her and Lisa. She has since left that damaging relationship; her job of many years is going well and she is up for a promotion. She and her daughter are moving into a place of their own, a better environment for both, and drugs and alcohol are things of the past.
Bev and I ran into Debbie and Lisa downtown not too long ago and although still shy they both appeared much happier and I look forward to the day soon when we will be invited over for a dinner that I was promised a few months ago.
GUTS AND DETERMINATION
Why do I choose to share Debbie with all of you? I guess because she exemplifies all that is good about mankind. She is a generous, beautiful person who feels deeply about others, who saddens when she sees injustice, who loves her daughter more than life itself. She has had every reason to give up and yet she has continued to move forward, always attempting to mold a new life, always attempting to find the positives in life.
People like Debbie bring me to my knees in thanks for the lessons they teach me. She has thanked me countless times for caring about her but it is I who has thanks for her for she continues to show me that we humans are good, that we humans are strong and that we humans are resilient beyond belief. Debbie thinks I am the teacher; she has that oh so wrong. She has taught me more about life and love than I ever taught her.
I have actually had people ask me why I became a teacher. The answer, to me, is so obvious. There is so much of Debbie in me. I understand the pain of self-loathing and I understand the misery of loneliness. The gifts I have received from my years of teaching are priceless and it was a vocation that keeps giving me gifts each and every year. I found a way through teaching to reach out to those kids who just need to know that someone cares and sometimes that make all the difference in the world.
I believe in the Debbies of the world. I believe in the power of persistence and positive thinking and above all I believe in the power of love.
Thank you Debbie! I love you!
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)
- The Human Experience: Brenda's Story
The beginning of a series of articles that bring to light the resiliency of the human spirit, stories of hope and overcoming huge odds to find happiness.
- The Human Experience: Greg's Story
Another remarkable story of hope, strength and determination as ordinary people persevere and triumph in this thing called life.