I have been praised many times the last few years for my honesty, heart, fairness and helpfulness.  These comments are pleasing when they started, but surprised me for they caught me at a time when I was examining myself for these same qualities and found myself rather lacking.

When I was younger I found myself trusting people far too readily, and always willing to help others.  My steady admonished me for my openness, explaining how he trusted no one until they proved themselves to be trustworthy. I felt sorry for him and continued in my fashion right up to the day a stranger stole something from me after I assisted him.  It was small, inexpensive but a highly sentimental item that could not be replaced, and my faith in mankind diminished considerably.

As years past, I found myself returning to my earlier beliefs and methods of trusting until being given a reason not to.  Periodically I would encounter someone that lessens my faith, but I always spring back, sooner or later.

After I discovered faith and my concept of the Lord did I examine other aspects of trust and helping others. I was given a great trial in the form of a meddling neighbor who intentionally did as much damage to my family as possible.  My first reaction was one of great surprise.  When I tried to resolve the situation with discussion I was met with vicious cruelty and additional assaults.  My puzzlement led to frustration, then anger and I simply learned to avoid the front of our home, this woman and any school activity with both of my children.  My family adopted the attitude that the neighbor will 'get hers' and we adjusted to defeat.  

Then I read an article about how a man learned to bless his challenges and thank the Lord for the obstacles in his life.   Not only did the trials fade, but his strength and ability to deal with them tripled. I suddenly realized we should be praying for this woman, and I promptly discussed it with my children that night at bed time prayers and story time.  Their first reaction was naturally quite negative, but they did listen while I carefully explained the idea behind the request.  I told them she was in desperate need of our prayers in order to find her own peace where she would no longer have a need to hurt others.  They were able to understand how learning to love and forgive her would make us stronger and better people.  I did not insist she be included in our prayers but I assured them she would be included in mine.  I was rewarded ten fold one evening when I heard my daughter praying for this woman.

At times I felt she would never change for we saw no improvement.  I attended school functions but always watched over my shoulder for her appearance.  I read "Pray without ceasing" somewhere, which gave me the strength to continue.  One day the harassment just stopped, although the newest neighbors who had become her targets were now included in our prayers. Finally this woman abandoned her family entirely and moved out with another man, leaving a confused husband and two young children.  We did feel a great deal of relief amidst the pain for the family, but we were a neighborhood again, enjoying summer visits in our yards and I was comfortable attending school activities again. I was happily an unemployed housewife but no longer restricted to my home (my self made prison of fear). I had the time to get involved in activities I had only dreamt about before as I had been employed as an Operation Supervisor my son's entire life.   I might have gone just a teensy bit overboard.

I became a Girl Scout leader, the neighborhood watch captain (that was desperately needed), SPCA newspaper editor, Boy Scout assistant, field trip mother, Toughlove director, PTC helper, you name it.  My empty schedule became blissfully overflowing.  People migrated to my home for a cup of coffee and afternoon chats which inevitably lead to questions or topics of faith and prayer. I ended up counseling unhappy mothers, troubled friends.  One group of people led to another.  Another opportunity to really help those in need led to more.  I had truly been given an opportunity to help where it meant something and provided something lasting.

Someone would say "How wonderful you are" and my immediate reaction was "Not really." It isn't a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence. I am very comfortable at long last with who I am, even though I am an admitted workaholic and perfectionist as well as my own worst critic. I am still learning to take a compliment gracefully.  Always, I am striving to do something just a bit better, which keeps me going on to more instead of basking in the finished product. It takes such little effort to help someone else, and I do it because I can!  It does take time, but is always worth the investment.  Not only do you get to add to the wonderfulness of the world, add love and light to someone's life, you add to the wholeness and healing of yourself.  Enforcing a loving or centering thought into someone else's life always re-enforces it into your own, usually when you need it yourself whether you realized it or not.

Written by Sharry Anne Stevens 1995, all right reserved

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