By Rebecca Barnes
This Thursday I will be speaking about “Influential Women” in time for the opening of nominations for Prince William Living’s Influential Women Award. I thought I would share with you some of the influential women in my life.
I want to introduce you to my mother.
For as long as I remember, my mother carried around a copy of the serenity prayer with her. It reads:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. –Reinhold Niebuhr
For all the challenges that my mother was presented in her life, she handled them with grace and dignity. If teaching by example is the best way to educate your children, then my mother was a scholar. Here are just a few things I learned by watching my mom.
Do not let other people define you.
Growing up, my mother had learning disabilities. At one point she was labeled “retarded” and was “tracked” in school. Yet she graduated top of her computer class in college and was sharp as a whip.
She was what I call “quietly bold.” From the outside she may have looked like the traditional housewife, yet she could shoot a pistol like John Wayne. She was both a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout. She could navigate just about any type of vehicle. She had a boating license. She could ride a motorcycle, navigate and fly a plane, drive an RV. She raised two kids and took care of her husband and ill mother-in-law and never complained. At least not that I ever heard.
You are not who others say you are. You are who you seek to become.
Wrong is Wrong. No matter how you try to dress it up.
Mom had an uncanny knack for calling things exactly what they were. She took risks when it was time to stand up and say so. In an organization to which she gave many years of time and effort, a decision had been made to allow someone who was accused of taking liberties with children to be in charge of children. As much as my mother had the capacity to turn the other cheek, this did not make sense to her. “You don’t let the rooster in the hen house, or give the key to the liquor cabinet to an alcoholic.” She went straight to leadership to express her concerns. When the placement moved forward, she resigned from the organization. There was backlash and a loss of friends for that decision.
That is what character looks like, folks.
Love without limits
My mother was one of the most loving people I know. Sometimes, I thought she was naïve, giving people the benefit of the doubt and showing kindness when it was not shown to her. There were many times where I thought she was distinctly taken advantage of by people. Yet I think she saw the big picture. One of my favorite sayings of hers is, “The child you want to hug the least is the one that needs it the most.” She applied this to everyone. Love given is love returned.
The hardest lesson and one I am trying to master: You must learn to forgive.
She knew. She knew people said she was fat. Or dumb. Or “different.” Yet she forgave, even when they didn’t ask for it. This infuriated me. How can you forgive someone who isn’t remorseful? Yet, she did. You have to forgive people who have obstructed, undermined and abused you, NO MATTER how traumatic. In order to be free, you have to forgive them
You must also forgive yourself. For your mistakes, for your transgressions. If you look at the middle of the word forgiveness, you will see the word “give.” You have to learn to give to be free.
When I was about 6, my mother was very sick and in the hospital. My father sat me down and told me that she was going to die. Dad doesn’t remember the details of the conversation, but I remember every word. I had a baby brother, and a father and my mother wouldn’t be able to take care of us anymore. It was a defining moment in my life. I looked right at my dad and told him “we will be all right, Daddy.” I knew we would be. Mom did pull through, and gave us 37 extra years. Those were a gift. They weren’t owed.
So even though she isn’t here, we hold tight to the lessons she lived. I look at my father today and say “We will be all right, Daddy,”and we will – because we accept the things we cannot change; have the courage to change the things we can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Please join us this Thursday, Dec. 7 at our Breakfast with an Expert event where we will discuss Influential Women: princewilliamliving.com/breakfastwithanexpert.