How One Girl’s Story Gave Me The Clarity To Begin My Life’s Work

my life's work

I’ve had all I can stands; I can’t stands no more!

– Popeye

I had resigned my corporate career. I was desperate do something other than line the pockets of the machine, but I wasn’t sure who to help or how.  I asked myself, “What population do I care deeply about and what kind of support do they need?”

I had a passion for serving teenagers. Upon the invitation of a friend, I’d spent my vacation days as a camp counselor the last few years. As I listened to campers share their lives, I noticed how they struggled with everyone telling them what to think. I sensed that the most important lesson I could offer was teaching them how to think for themselves. I had a college degree in communications and a knack for words, so I set out to write a program then presented it to a local high school.

The counselor liked my curriculum and hand picked twelve female students with great challenges and even greater potential. The ladies were excused from study hall the last hour of the school day on Wednesdays to join our little band of spitfires in the library.

Over the course of a semester I came to care deeply about these bright, beautiful young women as most of them dove eagerly into the topics of free will, values, mindfulness, approval, self-care, anger, fear, relationships, power, and purpose.

The last day of class, I was surprised to see a particular student linger. She had been aloof throughout the semester. She was slow to gather her materials, giving the other group members time to leave.

Once the room was clear, she approached me tentatively. I smiled gently; she hopped up on the table and joined me where I was sitting. We both swung our legs and watched our feet in silence. I waited for her to speak.

She softly said, “Miss Amy?” I looked up and noticed her dark eyes were lined with bright blue sparkles as her gaze met mine. She tucked her jet-black hair behind her ear and exposed her high cheekbones. The strong and striking structure of her full face was stunning; she had been hiding it since we met.

I held her gaze, “How can I help?”

A tear escaped the outside corner of her eye as she replied, “You can’t.”

I held the long silence between us.  She finally continued. “I like all the stuff you’ve been teaching us this semester. It’s just that… it doesn’t work in my life.”

She continued to share her crippling circumstances with me- a life filled with fear, rejection, alcoholism, and assault. I didn’t know how to help her, so I simply held the space and gave witness to her pain.

The final bell startled her and she jumped up abruptly to pack her things. She told me in a panicked tone, “I can’t miss the bus. If I’m not on the bus, my dad will flip out on me.”

I wanted to shout, “No!  Come home with me!” But I was powerless to help her. I did the only thing I knew to do and told her tenderly, “I’m here for you. Ms. Nash knows how to get in touch with me if you need to talk. Merry Christmas.” She smiled and was gone.

It was time to pick up my infant son, but fiery frustration burned holes in my stomach. I called the babysitter to see if I could come a bit later. She agreed, so I stopped at a café on my way home to process the atrocities. I was enraged at the system this young woman was stuck in and at my own inability to help her escape it.

It was clear that the program itself was not nearly enough to help these young ladies change their lives. I was offering them a pocketknife and sending them back into home lives as explosive as Beirut.

To facilitate lasting change, I would need permission to enter their private worlds. As I sat in the coffee shop pouring over my notes, I realized what I needed to do next. A degree in family counseling would give me the necessary training and credentials to join them and their families on the inside.

Before the day was over, I had started my application for graduate school.

What I saw that day in her eyes, “I can’t stands no more.” I can’t stands to see people live in dark, crippling, hopeless fear.

Her strength and story inspired me to begin my life’s work.

I am absolutely committed to teaching every soul I can reach that they are deeply loved, infinitely valuable, and positively put on earth for a purpose. I wish I could tell her of the impact her young life made upon mine, and the people I serve.

Popeye wants to know, “What have you had all you can stands in this world, and you can’t stands it no more?”

I want to know, “What do you plan to do about it?”

14 thoughts on “How One Girl’s Story Gave Me The Clarity To Begin My Life’s Work”

  1. Thank you, Amy. I’ve had all I can stands of my life with a husband who is verbally and emotionally abusive and withholding. 40 years and I am now in the process of finally letting go. The next steps are legal and physical separation and all that, which can’t happen fast enough for me. Wish me luck. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jean,

      I am sorry for what you have been through.
      I am sure it must have been hurtful and painful for you to deal with this misery.
      I would like to reassure you that you are not alone in your struggle.
      I just left an emotionally and physically abusive father who did not appreciate me and my contribution as a child and it deeply hurt, I often regret that I was born in this world.
      But at the same time, he has been an example of someone I do not want to be and what he did forced me to think and take care of myself.
      I can imagine that for a while, it will be challenging for you to move past this, but I hope you know that we both can endure and even thrive despite the pain that has been instilled in our brain.
      Sending you lot’s of love.

  2. What an important story to share Amy, on so many levels – thank you. It’s taken me a while to see the group I care about as I’d ended up in corporate and found that it all seemed so fake compared to the real issues going on around us. I’m working now for teens (and 20’s, like me) specifically with those who recognise themselves as introverted with a tendency towards intellectual issues, but feel forever redirected by school to do tests and homework that they can ace but, again, it just doesn’t feel real. I’m excited-scared about the future now that, like you, I’ve committed to this path. The fear though… it’s not like the fear of living ‘comfortably numb’ in the corporate bubble for the rest of my life and never feeling the significance of another person saying; “You don’t know how much your work means to me.” Keep going Amy. So wonderful and inspiring to hear your story.

    1. Leah!
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words and your beautiful story! I think you hit the point exactly when you talk about the fear of “comfortably numb.” I had enough of that and it sounds like you have to! Congratulations on figuring it out so soon. I admire you, Leah! I will keep up the work over here and think about you doing the same.
      Much love and gratitude, amy

  3. Hi Amy,

    Thank you so much for your story.

    I really appreciate it.
    I love working with young people too and I can imagine that I would do the same if I were you and dealing with that kind of situation.

    Thank you for being such an inspiration.


    1. Purna,
      Thank you for being so kind. So you know how wonderful young people are- so ready for new ideas and new beginnings. I hope to keep that kind of spirit about me no matter my age. Your comment has reminded me to do just that!
      I appreciate you, Purna. Have a beautiful day!

  4. Hey Amy,
    I really loved your article. Helping others is one of the strongest vibrations I feel that is generating from my soul.

    1. eeshanee,
      Thank you so much for your kind comment on the article. It is my joy to write it and share it with you! I love what you said, “Helping others is one of the strongest vibrations I feel that is generating from my soul.” It’s a beautiful way to think of it and I will ponder this today.

  5. This was such an inspiring story. It’s so hard when we see children hurting and can’t do anything about it. Going into Family Counseling is just the degree you need to make a difference in children’s lives. Being able to enter their lives by way of their homes is a great way to see what their dealing with on a daily bases.

    1. Daria,
      You are so right. It’s hard to see people hurting and not be able to do anything about it. Thank you for reading my story and for letting me know it mattered to you!

  6. Amy,

    This is an inspiring story. You went looking for a purpose and you found it. I truly believe when we realize that the world is bigger than us God finds a way to make us useful. I started to study psychology in hopes to be a counciler but decided to change my major because I realized I want to be a role model more then someone who sits in an office. I want to be the courage that young people see. I came from a tough background and did not have the help I needed until I was close to my 30’s and I opened my Bible. Things have done a 180 for me. Not only do I have a purpose but my purpose could help others start loving themselves and make decisions accordingly. Child abuse is a bad situation that seems to be snow balling but it takes strong leaders to help these kids see that it is not the end for them. They have to have hope. I am working on a non fiction book about loving yourselve and right from the beginning I say that you can not always escape the abuse as a child, but as an adult you are always capable of healing and becoming something great. :)
    Thank you for this article!

    1. Justine,
      Your story is the one that’s truly inspiring! You are living proof that healing and freedom are available in the shelter of God’s limitless love and grace. Thank you for your courage and for empowering the rest of us to find truth.

      I am so excited you are working on a book. When you get if finished, I hope you’ll head over to the facebook page and leave a comment so we can check it out! facebook/purposedweller.


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