Reflecting On Women Of Strength

Have you been put to the

test recently? 

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I had the good fortune of speaking at the Cancer Support Community's Strength of a Woman gala on October 4, 2017 honoring three inspiring women for their many contributions to the community.

As the Mistress of Ceremonies, I spoke about inspiration. What I believe inspires us most are ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. We appreciate when someone has the ability and willingness to be selfless, creative, innovative, or just dares to be different. We all have a list of women we admire in business, politics, the arts, and education. I can think of Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, just to start. And lets not forget the three African-American “human computers” who began working at NASA in the 1940’s. I was completely blown away by their compelling story in the film “Hidden Figures.” I have been in awe and inspired by many women that I know personally who have summited the mountain despite impossible odds. 

The beautiful thing about inspiration of this kind is the “ordinary” part. Although this word does not do these women justice, because they are anything but ordinary, rather, they are extraordinary in every way.

I don’t know about you, but I am afraid to listen to the news in the morning. There is so much unrest in the world and an uncomfortable regularity lately with the devastating events happening – disasters in London, hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Irma, central Mexico earthquake and the horrendous massacre in Las Vegas. Reading the horrific tales of victims, their families, and the first responders is heartbreaking. Reflecting on my speech around women of strength, I am encouraged by the beautiful tales I have read; so many people helping in ways they never thought possible. I don’t know the women I mention below, but I am guessing they are ordinary women who displayed their strength, courage and kindness for no other reason than they were meant to do at that very moment. 

I am grateful for the women in this world who face challenges with hope, courage and grit, and who exemplify what is means to be a woman of strength.

  • At the Las Vegas concert, a woman is seen escorting a man in a wheelchair to safety; she was one of many who stayed behind to help those who were not able to help themselves.
  • Lindsay Lee, who was attending the concert with her fiancé, told Fox 13 in Las Vegas that a man approached her vehicle asking her to help take people to the hospital. “Right now, we need your truck,” the man apparently said to Lee. “We just need to get people to the hospital.” She and her fiancé immediately obliged and made their truck into a makeshift ambulance to transport the wounded victims. 
  • Witness Carly Krygier spoke to CNN and shared how she was able to use her own body to shield her young daughter from the gunshots. “I put the baby on the ground and got on top of her,” she said. “When we heard a little break, we ran to the bleachers that were just behind us and I tried to tuck her as close to the end so that she was as protected as possible.”
  • A live TV reporter from Houston during Hurricane Harvey took a dramatic twist when journalist Brandi Smith helped rescue a truck driver stuck in floodwaters.
  • On Sept. 22, 2017 a volunteer rescue worker, Lizabeth Yazmin Lopez stands in front of a collapsed building in Mexico City. Wearing a hard hat and reflective vest, Lopez joined in the arduous dig for survivors in Mexico City, shoveling through mounds of debris the first day after the quake. “I have a lot of strength and hope. Tragedy makes you value life and as a society, together we can lift up a country with love and hope." 
  • Juana Huitron, the most famous of the female "topos," as Mexican volunteer searchers were known, has said she faced machismo years ago. Since then, even though women still make up a smaller percentage of the workforce than their male counterparts, they have become leaders in education, business and the arts.
  • And since the deadly Sept. 19 quake, women are working alongside men digging into rubble to search for possible survivors, leading campaigns to collect food and medicine for those left homeless and comforting relatives of the deceased.

The images we have seen and the stories told will be remembered among these devastating events most poignant moments — a testament to human will and compassion.  This was surely a test they did not expect.

Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will. 
— Mahatma Gandhi

I have been involved in some life altering experiences, including evacuating for the frightening 1961 Bel Air Fire when I was 10 years old, and many vicious and destructive hurricanes including Hurricane Cleo in Miami in 1964. Tornadoes and the Brush Creek Flood in 1977 in Kansas City where, from inside a car as I tried to find safe ground, I witnessed people clinging for their lives to chain link fences. The raging waters ripped their desperate fingers away while cars around us frantically tried to navigate a way to safety, only to be completely covered in water, never to surface again. The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake in San Francisco was terrifying with an entire section of the city, literally two blocks in front of our residence, completely disappeared. 

At the conclusion of my speech on Wednesday, a lovely woman came up to me and said, “You don’t know me, but my name is Wendy Hammers and 2 years ago you spoke to me on the phone for 1 hour. I had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and you helped me get to Dr. Isacoff and gave me so much hope. Your speech today was so inspiring, and I wanted to thank you.” She continued with some more lovely sentiments. What an incredible gift she gave me; this really reaffirms what I am meant to do.

I am focused on gratitude and for everything that my family and friends have provided, making it possible for me to be here. Oprah Winfrey said, “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” My goal in speaking and reaching out is to remind others to live with intention and make the most of this blessed life we have. I want to continue hearing, “Because of you Laurie, I did not give up.” 

We never know when or how our “test” will come.  Through the adversities, my hope for you is that you will:

Be happy

Have a sense of wonder

Do the things you are good at

Love your work

Believe in yourself

Stay inspired

Read books

Play games

Pray

Exercise

Laugh

Spend quality time with your family and friends

Take risks – don’t let your fears be handcuffs

Reach out and help others

Let your heart be your guide

And….live today as if this is all there is.

To the world you may be only one person, but to that person, you may be the world.