I watched with amusement in the past week all the crowds of people lining up for miles at gas stations and convenience stores around the country to buy their Powerball lottery tickets. All those dreams for a better life tied to an improbable series of numbers printed on a little slip of paper. It’s fun to think about, isn’t it?
In many ways, I often feel like I’ve won the lottery. When I look at where my life used to be and where it is now, it’s hard to believe sometimes. I have a beautiful family, a beautiful home, a successful career, and lots of honest, supportive friends. It would be easy for me to say, “You know what? I survived a hell of a lot and I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am. I deserve to sit back, rest, and just enjoy it all.” Isn’t that every lottery winner’s dream?
On the other hand, it would also be easy to retreat into the pain of my past. The majority of my life has been spent either being tortured or acting out in response to that torture. Only a small sliver of my life has been happy and successful. How easy it would be to simply allow the pain, the anger, and the old ways of self-medicating to sweep me up and carry me away.
Yes, all of that would be easy. But if there’s one thing I know about myself it’s this: I cannot fall and I cannot rest – ever – when I know there are children suffering right now as I did. I can smile, laugh, enjoy my family, and seek self-care for my healing, but I won’t ever lose sight of the fact that right now, there is a terrified, confused, humiliated child being raped and I have the power to stop it. No matter how far I’ve come or how far I will go in my life, that is a painful reality that I refuse to ignore.
When I speak, I’m not motivated by applause, money, or the sound of my own voice. I’m motivated by the fact that my story and my method of telling it is saving children’s lives and healing survivors. I’m often referred to as a hero, but what I really am is someone who knows what it feels like to need rescuing and I simply act accordingly. I cannot do this alone, and so I surround myself with people who understand the pain and the purpose.
I have won the lottery – not by paying for a ticket, but by paying it forward. I refuse to allow this kind of lottery to either make me comfortable or bitter. I will simply use the happy, purposeful life I have forged for myself to ensure that our children never know the pain of rape.
For responsible adults to commit their lives to saving children…. That’s one line I’d like to see stretching for miles. I’ll see you out there.