Change the world, make a difference in a life.
Theresa, office manager for a restaurant chain in Yakima, Washington, told Session 4B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"In 2005, I received a phone call from my aunt asking me to be a foster parent for my second cousin. I had never met her and I didn't even know she existed until that phone call came. She had been taken from her mother. Her father, my cousin, was in a halfway house for four DUI's, so he was not able to have her come live with him. When I heard the story, my heart went out to this girl I had not met. I really wanted to help and agreed to have her come live with my family.
"She was 12 going on 13. What a great age to have any child come live with you! She failed seventh grade and had just gotten kicked out of school right before coming to live with us. On top of that, I found out that she had not been in regular foster care. She had been placed with Service Alternatives, which is an agency that specializes in working with kids who have behavioral issues. Keisha had been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD (which I found out means Oppositional Defiance Disorder). I was required to take several classes to help me learn ways to deal with kids like her.
"I worked very hard to try and teach her the right way to behave, whether it was how she dressed or how she treated others. It was always a constant battle. She was defiant and insisted that she wasn't going to change. She lied all the time, about everything, so it was very difficult to build any trust. Whenever I took a risk to build trust, it seemed to always
blow up in my face. I was constantly after her to do her homework and turn in missing assignments. Needless to say, it was a very difficult five years, not only for me, but for my entire family.
"Keisha's family said that they would help, take her on weekends and holidays to visit, but as we all know, people get very busy with their lives and those visits became fewer and fewer. I was the one left dealing with her every single day, no breaks, never time to take a breath of relief.
"This last June, Keisha graduated from high school and she presented me with an Honorary West Valley High School diploma, which she gave me to show her appreciation for helping her reach this extremely important milestone in her life.
"The lesson I learned from this experience is when I make the commitment and invest the time, I can and do make a lifetime of difference in someone else's life.
"The action I call you to take is to act when you are given the opportunity to help. The time you invest in someone else's life will pay back dividends that will grow with the passing of time. The benefit you will gain is knowing that your life counts and you have made an eternal difference."
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