The love of power and money has distorted many Americans’ vision of success and freedom. Politicians and government are dividing our nation, spreading fear, defunding police, assuming the role of parents in schools as violence increases. What can we do?
As a crime and violence prevention consultant for 40 years, I’ve worked in every kind of neighborhood. I’ve seen the best of human behavior and the worst. My experience working with the homeless inspired me to write 10 steps that adults failed to teach their children. “Empowerment Parenting: How to raise resilient children to become happy, self-reliant adults” helps adults focus on the power of the human spirit to overcome any adversity. American children are suffering because they don’t know how to develop the three C’s: Courage, Character, and a self-protective Conscience or how to take charge of their lives. I hope my story will help adults see that children have the awesome power to grow strong and resilient which can keep them safe and healthy.
I was abandoned in Mexico City at age fifteen and I didn’t speak the language.
Growing up, my mother’s inheritance allowed us many privileges, however, my father felt inadequate, abused my brother, and became an alcoholic. My sister was a star pupil, and my brother ran away. My parents divorced, for the second time, when I was ten.
A new man moved in when I was twelve. He was a Washington DC political lobbyist, and took control of my mother’s life. He persuaded her to move to Mexico City. At age fifteen, I had one year of high school and was told I didn’t need an expensive private school. I was enrolled at Mexico City College to study Spanish and Art. Administrators were told I was a high school graduate.
Once I was in college, my mother and her boyfriend flew back to Washington saying they had important business and promised to return within two weeks. They paid a month’s rent for a room with a Mexican family and left. When the month was up and they didn’t return, the landlady threatened to evict me. Panic set in! I didn’t know which way to turn. I had no friends, no family, no one to advise me, and I didn’t speak Spanish.
One afternoon, after taking the bus back to my rented room, I saw a small neighborhood church. The door was open, and I went in. Fear and loneliness overwhelmed me. My family had never attended church, but my grandmother had said, “If you have a problem, turn to God and ask for help.” When I left the church, I had a plan.
I felt overwhelmed, scared and confused because “my” plan didn’t work.
I talked to the dean of women, and she suggested I become a guide for American tourists. That idea terrified me as I lacked self-confidence and had reading difficulties. I protested saying that my Spanish was terrible. She said, “Americans can’t speak it at all. Just do some homework and guide tourists around the city” as she handed me a stack of sightseeing books. I felt overwhelmed, scared and confused because “my” plan didn’t work. Fortunately, a fellow student suggested that Uncle Jose, a cab driver, might help. It wasn’t long before I was showing Americans the sights.
After one tour, a couple stated they were writing a book and asked if Jose and I would take them on a tour of the houses of prostitution and triple our pay. I hesitated, but Jose said we would take them on a trip they would never forget. We started at 10:00 p.m. at high-class houses of prostitution and ended up at 4:00 a.m. The husband talked to the girls and when he returned to the table his wife took notes. We heard horror stories of rape, pimps, abandonment, pregnancy, and girls running away from home because of molestation and abuse.
By the time I got back to my room, I was sick to my stomach. What would happen to me if my mother didn’t return? I had heard stories of girls as young as thirteen, forced into prostitution. I stopped eating and sleeping. My landlady could no longer evict me because I was so sick. She called a doctor and the dean of women. I didn’t know where to find my mother, but I told them about her Washington DC boyfriend. Eventually, the dean located her.
I woke up to find my mother standing over me. I thought I was dreaming. It had been three months, and the doctor told her my condition might indicate a venereal disease, which was impossible and shocking to both of us. She made immediate arrangements at a hospital in Texas. The problem was the authorities might not let us back into the United States. My mother and the doctor decided we should fly to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, without luggage. I had a temperature of one hundred and three and slept the whole trip. We bought trinkets and a large hat to cover my face to look like tourists as we walked across the border. My mother rented a car and we drove to the hospital in San Antonio. In retrospect, this was divine intervention.
After many tests, the doctor stated that I was malnourished, allergic to the medicine the doctor gave me, and starving to death.
Within a week, my health greatly improved and I had a very different perspective. I saw my mother through “new” eyes and knew she couldn’t help herself. I refused to go to Washington and I never lived with them again. My experience was painful and lonely, but I discovered my own identity and values; I learned to rely on my inner power to survive. I felt sorry for my mother and the choices she had made. She became a heavy drinker and smoker while “enjoying” the Washington social life.
I graduated from Pasadena City College at age 17 and got married at 18 to an amazing young man who had been in the US Air Force. My mother refused to attend our wedding because I was “marrying below my station in life.” I became a dental assistant and my husband graduated from the University of California. We have three successful children. It was scary but I was determined to take full responsibility for my future. I never regretted my decisions.
Every path is different but freedom comes from within the human spirit.
Seeking divine intervention can give us wisdom, courage and prevent other people from controlling our lives. The steps and stories in “Empowerment Parenting” can reinforce the amazing power we all have to discover our identities which can keep our children safe and healthy.