I was presented with an unexpected gift recently. As a public speaker, my focus is to inspire and encourage others to not only entertain life-giving possibilities, but to take brave steps in the direction of what they would love. I have a special place in my heart for people who are working to overcome adversity and ready to move forward with their lives in hopes of bettering them. This is also my focus as a life coach. So it was with pleasure that I accepted an invitation to speak to a group who meets for a monthly dinner at Hillsgrove House in Warwick, Rhode Island. As a part of its programs, Hillsgrove House assists those who’ve experienced trauma and setbacks in their lives to get back into the workforce among a community of support and counsel.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by one of the program directors and immediately brought around to meet the members who had begun to arrive. I could tell immediately that I was in the presence of people who had come through a lot, who felt broken at different points in their lives, but were now reaching out to me in genuine warmth and gratitude. At this point, I knew I’d be going “off-script” with these folks. I had prepared an outline that I believed would serve the description of them, but I could now see that this group had taken the advanced life course in mastering adversity. Their stories of cancer, drug and alcohol abuse, childhood abuse, and being singled out and berated as “different,” all followed by the amazing upgrade they were experiencing today in their lives, let me know that I was in the presence of spiritual giants. As a survivor of invasive breast cancer, followed immediately by the end of my marriage and a lifelong belief of not being good enough, I joyfully shared in their feelings of overcoming adversity and celebrating the new version of ourselves that we are constantly becoming.
As a life coach, I encourage my clients to enlist partners in believing. These are people who you can trust in sharing your dreams and goals, who remind you of who you really are when your faith is wavering, and help you remain accountable to your next steps. I was seated among a sea of partners in believing. The amount of love, encouragement and regard for each other was a blessing that continued to circulate around the table. I learned that as a new member enters the program, often crumpled and broken, a more seasoned member takes him or her under their wing for support and guidance. It’s a beautiful system of a person higher up on the ladder, reaching down to lift the new one up and on their way. There is always someone receiving guidance and always someone guiding. The chains of adversity are being broken and replaced by upgraded self-esteem and pleasure and pride in their work.
If “all the world is a stage and we are merely players” (Shakespeare), then the people I was honored to speak to on this night were discreetly disguised as humble, yet, upon hearing their words and witnessing their powerful transformation, I realized that I was in the company of kings and queens on a journey that, for them, required suffering and despair, followed by redemption and service to others. Yes, I too have been through much, and perhaps it is for this reason that I can fully appreciate the depth from which this group is rising, as they lift up others. I was in awe and felt so blessed to be among them, and very grateful for the opportunity to give, as well as receive on this night. By lifting up ourselves, we become a beacon of hope to others in distress. We demonstrate that reaching out for help can release us from what we may have believed was our permanent prison.
One thing I know for sure is that there is a circle of support available to all of us, but it sometimes requires bravery to ask for it. We may fear there is no hope or experience too much anxiety around the ask. If this is the case for you, I recommend, if possible, enlisting another trusted person to reach out on your behalf. It may be that you’ll need to check out more than one option for help. Don’t give up if your first contact doesn’t work out. Keep taking the next step in faith, until you identify the right resource. Suffering can teach us a lot, but we are certainly not meant to be in a holding pattern of strife. I encourage you to follow the example of the amazing individuals introduced to you above, and take a step in the direction of your healing and wholeness. This can be the beginning of your bright new chapter. You have my heartfelt prayers and best wishes, and I know that the people of Hillsgrove House join me in these sentiments.