Monday, August 31, 2009

When life hands you lemons... rudely SCREAM!

A few days ago, a 29-year-old woman was found after missing for 18 years. She was snatched as a young girl at the ripe age of 11, right in front of her Stepfather's eyes. As I understand it, her family has been desperately searching for her since that point in the hopes that one day their little girl would be returned to them. A couple days ago, they received their wish. However, the joy that came with this reunion also came the realization of what little Jaycee Duggard endured while captive. Details are emerging that she not only lived in a backyard shed compound for 18 years, but that she is a Mother to 2 girls- both of which were fathered by her much older captor. I am trying to imagine the bittersweet feeling her family must have in seeing their loved one again yet saddled with the knowledge that she has suffered traumatic abuse since that fateful day she was snatched.

This story instantly reminded me of Elizabeth Smart The beautiful, young Utah girl who was snatched from her bed in 2002 and remained missing for 9 months. I remember this story unfolding and being absolutely spellbound by her Father, Ed Smart. Ed instantly struck me as salt of the earth. His smaller stature pairs very well with his slightly high-pitch voice and thus, his intimidation factor comes not from physical strength but from perseverance. For the duration of her disappearance, day after Day, Ed Smart was in my life - via online news postings, newspaper clippings or the television. This small and tenacious man, a devout Mormon from Salt Lake City, was fighting for his daughter in the most purest of ways: using his voice.
Image above found here.

When her return came 9 months later, my joy stemmed from my sense of humanity but also I was ecstatic thinking of how happy Ed must be right now! I felt I had a rapport with this man and I almost wanted to be graced with the honor of giving him the news: "Yes, Ed! She's alive! Your tireless work has meaning!" It was also why I welled up with tears when he held his first press interview confirming that she had been safely found. The only thing bigger than his smile that day was the fervor in which he threw his arms in the air, I believe as a nonverbal interjection of disbelief that he was living such a miracle.

Image above found here.

Elizabeth's return didn't mean that it was going to be the last we saw of the Smarts. My estimations about them being a caring and loving family were confirmed as Ed soon became a face and advocate for Children's issues. He teamed with America's Most Wanted John Walsh (an AMAZING person to me, one of whom I don't think I can even find the time to write why) and quit his lucrative job in real estate to invest his time, energy and heart into Child Safety issues. I watched him in awe as I thought he evinced all the qualities of someone I wanted to be: someone who found strength through passion, love and stalwart nature even in the darkest of days.
Once Elizabeth was finally ready to do some interviews, she usually did them alongside her father. I remember at one point on Oprah during an interview, Ed explained how he had always taught his Daughters to be proper, polite and ladylike young women and how that proved in some ways, to be a detriment to them. After Elizabeth's return, she was not only dealing with emotional baggage from her ordeal but she was dealing with others cornering her for details on her horrific experience. Ed Smart simply said that he had to teach his daughters, for the first time, that taking care of yourself came before being polite. He had to teach them to SCREAM when they needed to and to understand that they do not owe others something they are not willing to give even at the cost of being seen as rude.

The young woman, Jaycee, who was recently discovered after 18 years was able to use the Phone and Email during her time captive. At this point, it is understood that she made no effort to reach out for help from others for reasons that are hard to understand from an outside perspective. Very few people will know what she is going through and as I grappled with the enormity of Jaycee's position here in my bed in Oregon, I was happy to see on TV that Ed and Elizabeth Smart were there to share tips, insight and kind words in an effort to reach her.

My admiration for Ed and Elizabeth breaks down to an old saying: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!" I often struggle with all the curve balls sent my way that are out of my realm of control. However I am continually astonished at those who are dealt some of the worst grievances and manage to come out on top and use their grief to help others.

I have been thinking about Jaycee a lot since this story broke and I hope that her severe situation and past won't define her as a person. This person left the world she knew as a mere child and emerged as a woman and mother and I know she has a rocky road ahead of her. However, I think now that she's safe to scream at the top of her lungs without fear, the Smarts will hear her voice. It may be considered rude but it may be just what she needs.

Update and further proof of her strength - watch the video.