A few weeks ago, I visited Minnesota to give a talk to the ND Club of Minnesota, sponsored by their ND Women Connect group (I happen to run this group in DC). I was looking forward to sharing my story and visiting with one of my ND teammates who lives in the area, but I also met up with an old friend who I had not seen in 15 years. I didn’t know she was going to be there.
There are some people in your life who you do not know well, but they make an impact. You may not see them daily, but you think about them often. I connected with one of these friends in Minnesota. We only met for one week during the fall of her senior at Notre Dame (during my extra semester at ND), and she doesn’t even remember. But I have thought about her often over the past several years: wondering how she was doing and where she was. And then in Minnesota, there she was, doing great.
Mandy was in a car accident during her senior year and suffered a spinal injury. I spent that first week with her family and the University, talking, sitting with them, talking to Mandy and doing my best to provide support for a family that was in shock. I remember so clearly Mandy’s aunt who took control of a situation what was beyond the family’s control. I knew, watching their family interact, that Mandy would be okay. She may not have healed physically as I did, but she had all the tools, support and love to heal emotionally. It was inspiring to watch.
It was even more inspiring to see Mandy in Minnesota. Here was someone with whom I have always felt connected and yet we had lost touch. Here is someone with a strong faith and a strong sense of family and giving - someone who inspires others with her humor; someone who has journeyed through tragedy and makes a difference in people’s lives. Someone who inspires me.
Happy Birthday Mandy. Here’s to many more years of inspiration!
“Service to others is the price we pay for our room here on Earth.” ~ Mohammad Ali
I recently led a Lenten retreat for women in which we discussed and shared our thoughts on this quote. I decided it would be my theme for Lent this year.
Service to others.
We were on vacation last week and I spent a lot of time thinking about this quote. I was drawn to it and I needed to figure out why. Perhaps because it is how I want to live my life: by serving others. I have found that those whom I admire most are those who choose to live their life this way. My aunt comes to mind.
My Aunt Nancy lost her daughter over 20 years ago. My cousin, Kristen, was beautiful both inside and out: smart, blonde, athletic, and most importantly faith-filled. She braved a battle with cancer that ultimately took her life at age 18. I can not imagine the grief my aunt has lived with - and yet, she took this most horrible of tragedies and has honored her daughter with her service to others.
As an adult, my aunt went back to school and became a registered nurse. She now works for Hospice and each day comforts families who are caring for a loved one as they leave their life on Earth. Each day she faces death; and yet her grief has not hindered her call to serve others. My aunt is the ultimate example of taking a painful experience and making it perhaps a little more bearable by her service to others.
“Service to others is the price we pay for our room here on Earth.” Aunt Nancy has paid for her room tenfold.
It’s not very often that you get the chance to thank someone who wrote to and prayed for you 19 years ago - especially someone you do not know - but I had that opportunity just last week.
In every talk I give, I share how meaningful it was to receive the volume of mail that I did, particularly when I was in the hospital in South Bend. In the days before email, internet and cell phones, people wrote letters - and I loved receiving them! I remember trying to hard to write everyone back, but when you are the recipient of over 20 letters a day, responding to all is hard to do. Especially when you are busy learning how to walk!
I remember my mom assuring me that it was okay to not write to everyone, that they would understand. But I did write to some - and it was as meaningful to them as it was to me…so I recently learned.
After a talk I gave in Minneapolis last week, an ND alum raised his hand during the Q&A to tell me that he was one of the “people I didn’t know” who wrote to me - and shared with the group how touched he was that I written him back a two-page letter. I am sure I did; I do not remember specifically. But at that moment, I was very thankful I had!
What a wonderful opportunity for me to thank him for his support. It made a difference. He may not have known that 19 years ago, but I hope he does now.