Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heroes: The Constant Presence

"I'll call you Liz only if you call me Dave."

It was spring break of my freshman year of high school. I was in Mexico building houses with my church, and the question of names was being discussed.

Dave? I thought incredulously. He'd always been Mr. F to me. Our families had been friends for years and "Mr. F" was ingrained. Besides, he was a pastor.

But calling me Liz was a big deal. I grew up being called by my first name, Hannah, but I always loved my middle name. When I started high school, I decided to switch: no more Hannah. Call me Elizabeth. Which meant my family and friends had to relearn everything.

"If you call me Mr. F, I'll have to call you Hannah," he added.

"Deal," I said quickly.

So I began calling him Dave and, as promised, he called me Liz. I felt very adult calling him by his first name.

It wasn't the only reason I felt adult. Instead of pounding nails, Dave made me his assistant cutting wood. It was my job to make sure the wood was measured correctly. Dave said he picked me to do the job because I was detailed and responsible. I felt important.

Dave is good at believing in people.

His wife is good at it too.

Barely two months after that trip to Mexico, I had my first panic attack. The first of many, accompanied by hallucinations and nightmaresBecky was studying to become a counselor and she had personal experience with trauma. When I realized I needed help, I went to her.

She started meeting with me every week. She gave me the strength to tell my parents about my abuse. She let me talk, cry, and be confused. She was patient even when I wasn't making headway. She taught me how to handle panic attacks. Becky was my beacon of hope.

With her, I came to believe in my worth: that I was lovable no matter what messages the abuse sent me. The panic attacks got better. Knowing I was worth something did a lot to get my life moving in the right direction.

Dave and Becky played big roles in my story of overcoming abuse, but that's not the only reason they're my heroes. They constitute a common thread in my life's narrative. I grew up alongside their kids. They led a biblestudy at our house for years. They led a ministry for parents of teenagers that helped my parents survive my teenhood. Through it all, they imparted grace and joy. What impacted me most wasn't anything they did; it was who they were.

Dave and Becky didn't set out to make a splash; they just lived. Like normal people. But they cared about the small stuff, treated me with respect, and were willing to keep showing up in my life week after week. That's what made a difference. Consistency in the mundane. Ever-present awareness of human dignity. That's what made them special.

I live far away now. I don't hear from Dave and Becky much. But they're still as close to my heart as ever. They shaped who I am. Being around them, they rubbed off on me. I want to have that same kind of impact. The kind that doesn't try; it just happens. I want to be a person who believes in people.

Word count: 563.