Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Greatest Gift

Sometimes we are oblivious to how lucky we are.  We often don't realize how good we have it until something goes wrong. But every once in awhile, we have our eyes opened without having to go through fire and flame, and we can truly appreciate the good things in our lives and fully understand just how fortunate we are.

When I was a student at the University of Minnesota, there were a lot of requirements for graduation that I was totally annoyed over.  I just wanted to take classes that were part of my major and graduate, but the College of Liberal Arts expects you to be a well-rounded person, so there were lots of additional requirements.  I was always trying to find classes that would satisfy more than one requirement, so I was excited when I found a class called "Biology of Women."  Not only would it fulfill one of my science requirements but it also fulfilled a "minority studies" requirement or some such thing. I also figured it would be relatively easy because I liked biology and, hey, I was a woman, so it seemed like I wouldn't have too much new to learn, right?

Wrong. I was surprised at how much of the class discussion turned into how women in our society are treated, and I was unprepared for some of the difficult stories that some of them shared. I learned pretty quickly that my life had been easy compared to many of my classmates, and that my experience growing up was very different from most.  It really hit home when we had to write a paper for class about how our gender influenced our choices as we grew up.  I wrote about how I had never felt that my gender would keep me from doing anything.  My parents were wonderfully supportive of me and my sister all my life. We were never told we couldn't do something because we were girls.  We were always told from a very early age, by both of our parents, that we could be anything we wanted to be.

I wrote about my wonderful mother, and how she and my father were true partners who both spent time with us, who nurtured us, and who laughed with us.  My mom was usually the person who fixed things, who read the instructions and put things together. She was the one who planned out the vacations and always knew what to do when things went awry. She always found a way to see the positive, and still does to this day. She was always, always there for us. She showed me that great strength comes through great kindness. She was living proof that women were strong, capable, and able to make things happen.

When I got my paper back from my professor, I read through her comments.  She wrote "You are very lucky. You had the rare gift of a happy childhood."  I was a little dumbstruck by her comment. Was it really so rare? And then I started to recall some of the stories that had been shared by others; stories of abuse and rape, stories of abandonment, stories of such hardship that I had never encountered. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to my family for sheltering me from so much of the pain that this world can bring. I remember calling my parents that night just to say "thank you".

Our beliefs shape us. When you grow up believing that life is good, and that you were meant to be happy, you just don't accept other outcomes. If you wonder how I stay positive despite everything, if you wonder where I get my strength and my resilience, my answer is that I was given the gift of love with no strings attached. I was given the gift of confidence in my abilities. I was given the gift of believing that everything would always work out. I was given the rare gift of a happy childhood.

I wrote this song for my parents a few years ago. I'm sharing it now for those who would like to hear it.  The recording is very low quality as I did it on my Ipad in Garageband, and my voice isn't as strong as it used to be, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

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