I first met my "earth angel" at a very critical point in my life. I was twenty-nine years old, a brand new college graduate, single—and sixteen weeks pregnant. I decided I wanted to have my baby and raise him even though I knew I would be facing many obstacles ahead. At the time I discovered I was pregnant, I was living at home with my parents and trying to get on my feet and live an independent life. When I announced to my mother and stepfather my unplanned and very unexpected pregnancy, I was promptly invited to move out of their home. There I was at Christmastime, looking for a new home for my unborn child and myself and facing an uncertain future as a single mother. To say the least, I was terrified!
I had heard about a maternity home in our community, so I gathered the courage to call to see if I might be eligible to become a resident. On the other end of the telephone line was the woman who was to become my mentor, my guide, and eventually my friend. She was the program director of the maternity home, and she invited me to come for an interview. I was accepted as a resident, and I moved into the home a few days after Christmas. That was a Christmas I will never forget.
The program director became one of the very few stable adults in my life. She held me accountable for my actions, attitudes, and disposition. She provided me with a sense of security and love that I had never experienced at home or in any of my friendships. In addition to my suitcases, I had arrived at the maternity home with some heavy emotional baggage. As time passed, I began to show a feisty and rebellious demeanor. I was defensive and even lashed out verbally to avert being corrected. But my defensive and offensive tactics did not work on the program director.
One of the most difficult yet valuable lessons I learned at the home came from attending a required one-on-one accountability meeting with the director. I came to the meeting with an attitude—a bad attitude. I resented being there, and I didn't particularly like what she was saying to me. Consequently I initiated a verbal fight with her. We locked horns, and before long we were both yelling at one another. It was now a major power struggle, and I did not intend to lose. I'd had enough and was marching indignantly to the door to leave her office.
What happened next truly took me by surprise. Her angry frustrated tone completely changed, and I heard her say through her tears, "Wait. Don't go. Please stay." I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around. No one had ever asked me to stay with them once I had verbally attacked them.
There I was at
looking for a new
home for my unborn
child and myself.
What she said next changed my life. She told me that I mattered more to her than the issues we were arguing over or who was right or wrong. She said she wanted to have a relationship with me and did not want to control my life or bark orders at me. She begged me not to walk out of her office in anger. Somehow she understood that my behavior was a show of self-protective bravado. Her words and tears reached far beyond my anger and melted into my hurting heart and soul. I felt safe and loved. I felt valued and cared for.
I also learned a lot about humility that day. The director's willingness to drop her guard, to be real and human with me, and to show me love instead of anger opened a door of trust for me. It helped me to open my heart again to another human being and feel safe. She also taught me to become a good listener and not to try to fix other people around me.
My son is now a handsome twelve-year-old. I am happily married to a wonderful man, and we have adopted a baby girl. The many lessons I learned at the maternity home will stay with me forever. Whenever I hear the word stay, I always think of that life-changing day in the director's office. I also often remember the words from a famous poem: "Stay is one of the most charming words in a friend's vocabulary."
Judith Hayes was the program director in this account. She wrote this story from the client's perspective. Hayes is a freelance writer and lives in California.