The phone rings and I stop my shaking, feeble hand holding the needle, mid-motion.
Another ring. I look down and see that it’s my big sister, Maria. Slowly placing the needle back on the grimy bathtub, I chose to answer the phone.
How did she know? At that exact moment on April 22, 1994, I was about to end my life with one last crystal meth fix. When I was all but swallowed up in the tarpit of drugs and misery, she was the beat of hope that saved my life.
My childhood consisted of seven emotionally messed up years of repeated sexual abuse from my father. I learned love was pain. At a devastatingly young age, I lost love. Then I found drugs. At 13, I started smoking pot and dropping acid. By 18, I was using crystal meth every day – smoking it and eventually shooting it in my veins. I did anything and everything to feed my addiction. I lied and stole for drugs. I traded my last remaining dignity for drugs.
On that day in April, I had nothing. I had no love, no hope, no reason to live. Or so I thought.
The choice to pick up the phone in that moment changed my life forever. Had my sister called me a day earlier, I wouldn’t have answered. If she had called me a day later, I couldn’t have answered. Within 48 hours, I was living with my sister and her two young children. I was a meth addict, a liar, and a thief whose friends consisted of drug dealers, gang members and a murderer. My sister chose to be my beat of hope and transformed my life.
My Hero: Big Sister Maria
My big sister Maria is my hero. Years later, I asked her how she knew to call me at that exact moment. She replied, “Oh, my little sister, I never stopped calling you. You just finally chose to answer.”
I purposefully ignored her for years. When I did talk with her, I would lie about how – and what – I was doing. She knew something was going on because my behavior was erratic. She could tell I was high when we spoke. At one point, I went completely underground so no one could find me. Although she would get frustrated, sad, and I’m sure she felt borderline hopeless, she never gave up on me. She kept calling. She persevered and intentionally sought out opportunities to love me, even when I didn’t want her love. In her eyes, I was worth her persistent effort.
“The worth of a soul is great; but the worth of my sister’s soul even greater! I made her a promise years before 1994. A promise that I would protect her and save her from the abuse of our father. Little did I know that promise would also mean saving her from addiction, hopelessness and despair. I never lost hope!” – Big Sister, Maria
Giving Myself Permission To Accept Help
When I picked up the phone, I was acknowledging that I needed help. Within 48 hours, I was walking off of a plane and into my sister’s home where she would see the “me” I had been trying to hide for years. I was embarrassed and horrified. But I let go of those negative feelings and chose to accept the love and compassion being offered to me. It was not easy and was a long, difficult journey to climb out of that tarpit. I couldn’t have done it myself. I needed Maria.
My example is an extreme one, and a circumstance that I hope you have never and will never find yourself in. But at some point, we may all need a beat of hope.
I see the mom who just had her third baby and is battling postpartum depression. The husband who supports his wife and children but was just laid off from his job. I see the small business owner coming to grips with the fact that they have to file for bankruptcy. The daughter who just lost her mom to cancer. The son who never seems to be good enough for his dad. I see the married couple beginning to think divorce is the only option to find happiness again.
At some point, we all may need a Maria to help us climb out of our own tarpits. The question is, will you let go of whatever it is that is holding you back, and answer the phone?
3 Ways You Can Be A Beat Of Hope For Others
My big sister Maria continued to be my beat of hope well after that phone call that saved my life. She provided me with a safe place to live, to detox, and to adjust back to normal life. She was warm, yet demanding. There were very clear boundaries set in place and safeguards for her own family’s safety, as well as mine. She was not wishy washy in the rules and there was no confusion around the circumstances I found myself in. She is a shining example of how you can be a beat of hope for someone in your life that needs help, even in extreme circumstances, and still maintain your boundaries.
Here’s what I’ve learned from Maria:
First, we have to open our eyes. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own lives that we don’t pay attention to the people around us. Maria could have forgotten all about me – out of sight, out of mind, right? She intentionally kept me on her radar so she could be there for me. Who in your life may be in difficult circumstances and you never noticed before? Reflect on those in your life and open your eyes to what others are going through.
We must be persistently present. To be a beat of hope, you have to beat. Say hi. Ask how they are doing. Then ask again. And again. Be a friend. Be kind. You don’t have to push, but you do have to be warm and persistent. Let them know that you are there for them, always.
Offer your help. Most people will never ask for help, even if they need it. But if they are presented with help, they can choose to accept it. Help will look different in every circumstance; some examples are:
- Offer to wash dishes or babysit for the mom who just had a baby to give her a break.
- Regularly bring dinner to the family whose breadwinner just lost their job.
- Invite the business owner who is struggling to have coffee with you and talk about whatever they want.
- Surround the lonely daughter who just lost her mom with persistent invitations to join your friend’s next outing.
- Send the son who never feels good enough words of affirmation.
Like Maria, you may feel that all of your efforts to reach out are ignored or are not appreciated. Don’t give up on them. Keep offering help. You never know when they’ll choose to answer. One beat of hope can transform a lifetime.
Book Trish for your next keynote or workshop to nurture hope and belonging and transform your team.
“Since I heard you speak, I have been carrying you around in my head. …so profound because of the challenges overcome, lessons learned and success defined. We can all benefit from your utterly sincere acceptance of the guiding principle of “loving and being loved.”