Shelter the Innocent

child_abuse_symSome of you may be aware that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  I was very fortunate and blessed to have had a childhood where I was loved and safe but many people I know personally were not as fortunate.  They endured terrible abuses of every kind and yet most of them have become some of the strongest people I have ever known.  It is a difficult thing to watch the people we know and love endure these scars in their lives but I have been inspired to see them come to places where they realize just how beautiful they are and have always been.  It is such a process but it is one that is well worth going through.  Healing never comes easily but it IS possible for it to come.

About a week ago, a song came to me in a matter of minutes as a result of reflecting on situations that some of the people I love have had to endure.  Since this is Child Abuse Prevention Month, I thought it fitting to share the lyrics with you so I have added them to the end of this post.  The song is titled, “The Mirror” and it speaks to what is seen when we gaze at our reflection.

shutterstock_92486212Children really are so innocent and need protecting.  We all hope they are raised in loving and caring homes, by good and loving parents but we also know that is not always the case.  It is our responsibility to step forward not only when we become aware of severe abuse but we should also pay closer attention to the children in our lives no matter where we encounter them.   They are a treasure and we should strive to be good examples to them in every way.  We need to love and encourage them whether they are “ours” or not.  We need to talk with them and listen to them and when there are concerns, we need to voice them!  We need to always remember what it felt like to be a child and how real our fears were to us, regardless of what any adult may have thought.  We need to be the ones who genuinely care and help lift them up to be all they can be.  It doesn’t matter where they come from or where they are.  Even if they come from seemingly wonderful homes, they can never have too many supporters and encouragers in this life.  Life can be hard no matter how old we are and I still have people in my life today who listened to me as a child.  I still go to them sometimes.  I still feel warmth and love from them to this very day and it strengthens me continually.

shutterstock_76099252So reach out to the children around you.  Be available.  It doesn’t take much for us to provide a rock to hold onto when their little worlds are crumbling.  It simply takes a willing heart and a few moments of time to make all the difference in the world.  Give them the greatest gift of life they could ever have.  Give them you.


The Mirror

Just a little child broken and abused.  Treated like a rag doll – utterly confused.  Focusing on nothing, she stumbles through the door and looks into the mirror as she hides there on the floor.

And she says, “Mirror mirror on the wall, why can’t I see someone pretty looking back smiling at me?  Will there ever be a time when the ugly finally fades and all the pain I’m living now turns into yesterday?”

Just another woman haunted by the past.  Survival left her empty ‘cause she had to grow so fast.  Afraid to trust another – afraid to ever tell that all she sees is ugly when she tries to see herself.

And she says, “Mirror mirror on the wall, why can’t I see someone worthy looking back smiling at me?  Will there ever be a time when the shame will fade away and all the pain I’m feeling now is lost in yesterday?

Down through the years, now when I look, I see I’m not defined by what they took.  And though there are scars, they’re beginning to fade.because I can see I am wonderfully made.

Now in the mirror on the wall, I can finally see someone beautiful and strong smiling back at me.  And should there ever come a time when the doubt begins to rage, I’ll let it go and turn my eyes away from yesterday.

The winds of change have carried me on the wings of love and grace to where I’m free to live beyond my world of yesterdays.”

© Deanna Kay O’Leary 2013

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A Literal Gift of the Heart

In keeping with my theme of love in February, I wanted to share something with you that happened 15 years ago this month.  My mom and I appeared on the Montel Williams Show to be united with the family of my mom’s heart donor (Kim).  The video clip of our segment on the show is at the bottom of this post.  Let me back up for a few moments and share the basic details of this story with you.  I’ll share the full details at another time.

Heart donorIn the mid 1990s, my mom began having serious heart troubles.  She had surgery to repair a valve in 1995 that was unsuccessful and in February of 1996 she was told her only hope was to have a heart transplant.  Nothing will wake up a family like an illness that brings death to your doorstep.  After much consideration, my mom and dad moved (temporarily) up to San Francisco to be near Stanford Hospital in case a heart became available.  She was supposed to be a “quick transplant” but ended up having some complications that almost caused her to not be a candidate at all.  In September of 1996, mom and dad got “the call” and she received her new heart on September 20, 1996.

I thank God constantly for the genuine love that a family of strangers showed to my own.  They were losing their daughter and sister but even in their grief they reached out in love to people they had never met.  Recognition did not matter to them.  This family looked at their own great loss and decided they would share a literal gift of life with someone else.  It was a selfless act in spite of how deeply they were hurting at the time.  The resulting effect in our world was an ecstatic sadness…a bittersweet sensation embracing life and death, joy and pain.  It is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Love in its true state prefers others.  It is not a feeling, but a decision…a commitment.  Love gives us the strength to do things we could not (or would not) do on our own.  It can take our weakest moments and turn them into our most triumphant.  It causes us to look outside ourselves even when our world is crumbling.  It allows us to give even when we feel as if we’ve lost everything.  Love does not demand gratitude but if you have been touched by a sincere and selfless love, it is impossible to not feel gratitude that runs deeper than any earthly expression.

Me and Mom in Maui lightKim’s family demonstrated a selfless love for others in their decision to donate her organs so that others may live.  As a result, our family has been blessed with over 16 additional years of my mother’s presence and she is still doing well.  Because of their gift, Mom not only got to be present for my wedding, but also the wedding of my sister and eventually the wedding of her granddaughter.  She has watched both of her grandchildren grow up.  She has seen the birth of her first great-grandchild!  She has been here to hold our hands and our hearts.  She has been an inspiration and example to everyone who knows her and has changed lives as a result.  I know it was my mom who actually received the heart but it’s the rest of us that feel like we got the greatest gift.

Love for others, even total strangers (sometimes especially total strangers), can have effects you would have never imagined.  You may not ever be recognized for it but love does not seek to elevate itself.  It does not want to be put on a stage.  It is enough to be content in knowing you HAVE loved, genuinely and with all you are.  To love fully and without condition means to do so without expectation of anything in return.  Loving is the one thing we can all do that allows us to change the world by changing our little corner of it!  And sometimes, just sometimes, we find ourselves blessed enough to come full circle and see it face to face.