Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Kind of Mother I Want to Be

We all get loads of email forwards. Some are funny, some are political, some are ridiculous, and some are inspiring. Even those that fascinate me rarely leave my inbox. I just don't take the time to forward them. However, I felt the need to share this one. I do not know who the original author is or where it came from. For all I know it could be fabricated (although I highly doubt that). Regardless, it touched me and I'd like to share it with you.

This week, at the front desk of one of the leading hair salons in Los Angeles, People Magazine was being shared by a handful of women all marveling at the poise and strength of the 21-year old cover girl, Elizabeth Smart. Just a week ago, Smart finally faced the man who violently changed her life and robbed her of her youth. Defendant Brian David Mitchell, appearing in U.S. District Court, sat in shackles opposite Smart. Ultimately Mitchell was banned from the courtroom for being disruptive, and was reduced to viewing the proceedings via closed circuit TV.
It is no surprise that magazine readers, particularly women, have been shocked and horrified by Elizabeth Smart's unveiling of her true nightmare. The women present this week at Allen Edwards Salon in Encino, California could only shake their heads and praise her for her courage, for her steely commitment to holding Mitchell accountable, and her equal resolve to be defined by all that she is, not what she has lost.
About a year ago, my then 11-year old daughter had the opportunity of being in a Sunday School class of young women taught by Elizabeth Smart, in a Salt Lake City congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The subject of Smart's lesson was how to "put your trust in God when there is nothing else you can count on." Elizabeth Smart shared with the young girls, who knew her sheer presence was a miracle, that they could survive anything if they would just understand who they were in the eyes of God.
Some skeptics in the world might brush aside such a message as sort of a lovely evangelical band-aid. If you were eleven and seated in front of the statuesque, unspotted, quietly fierce Elizabeth Smart, no more believable testimony could ever be given.
In recent weeks the media has been full of praise for Elizabeth Smart. Earlier, however, the media often questioned her courage. Why hadn't she run? Or escaped? Or screamed? Or fought back? Interviewers and reporters and anchors filled news minutes with speculation. For years. When Smart did agree to interviews, she fought off the most pressing questions, creating even more wonder.
On October 2nd, in a Salt Lake City courtroom, in a time and place of her choosing, Elizabeth Smart quietly but confidently silenced all speculators. She revealed a tale of pre-meditated viciousness and abuse that almost no woman could survive, intact.
How did a 14- year old survive such a crime, you might ask?
Because of her mother.
Several days after her kidnapping, after her father had already poured out his soul to the unknown kidnappers and sobbed for his daughter's return, Elizabeth's mother, Lois Smart, stepped in front of the microphone. She seemed so bereft that she could barely lift her face to the cameras for early morning television. I remember Mrs. Smart calling out to Elizabeth, hoping somehow she could hear. Lois Smart challenged Elizabeth, wherever she might be, to remember her great- grandmother, a Mormon pioneer, who had crossed the Great Plains. Lois Smart reminded Elizabeth that her great- grandmother had known many hardships, but had always endured, and that Elizabeth could do the same.
Elizabeth Smart has reported that the "mentally-deficient" Brian David Mitchell had acquired a small TV or radio to track the news media coverage following the abduction. Whether Elizabeth ever actually heard her mother, it is hard to know. However, as a mother of a daughter who also has a great- grandmother who forged her way across the plains with the Mormon pioneers, I know that it is likely Elizabeth knew the story well. It had been shared with her by her mother and father many times. She also knew what it said about the women who are part of the long line of Smarts.
As someone who shares the Smart family's religious convictions, I can't help but believe that Elizabeth Smart was able to survive months of captivity and sexual abuse because at 14, she already knew exactly who she was. All of her life she had been taught that she was a daughter of God and that nothing, and no one, could ever change that. She knew that her mother knew. She knew that her grandmother knew. She knew that her great grandmother had known too that she could endure virtually anything, trusting that her Father in Heaven was watching over her.
The answer to the question in everyone's mind about Elizabeth Smart is simple. Elizabeth survived by showing the kind of courage that she had always been taught was there.
That is how the witnesses and national cameras cannot ignore that Elizabeth Smart is still a young woman with a rich life ahead of her.
A beautiful, courageous 21 year old, and a presence whom six young girls in a Sunday School class will remember the rest of their lives.

My thoughts while reading this were not of how I might have handled the events Elizabeth Smart did, although those thoughts have crossed my mind. Today I thought of my children. And my own strength as a mother. I hope that I will someday be the kind of mother who has taught that indescribably important lesson to her children. If at the end of my life I can not say that I did all in my power to teach my children to KNOW who they are, to know, as stated in this email that they are "a daughter (or son) of God and that nothing, and no one, could ever change that...and that she (or he) could endure virtually anything, trusting that her (or his) Father in Heaven was watching over her (or him)", well then, my life would not have been well spent.

Thoughts like this can be discouraging. I could look at it and fear all the work I have to do to become that kind of mother. I could realize that I may fail and give up. Or I can realize who I am and I can trust that if I put every ounce of faith in my Heavenly Father, He will guide me in teaching my children and instilling in them strong, solid, enduring testimonies, like this young woman's.

That's the kind of mother I want to be.


Scimber said...

wow, thats an awesome story!!!

Brianne said...

I think that sometimes it is so easy to get distracted by the day-to-day things and routines. I know that for me, I need to strive more to have those teaching moments all the time. Not just at Family Home Evening or Sunday or bedtime. Thanks for sharing McKenna.

Bugs said...

AMEN sista!

Anonymous said...

Its from the Meridian Magazine, article writing by Sonj Eddings Brown.

the link is:

Anonymous said...

hmm...sorry, its 'written by'

Erin and Family said...

love this mckenna. meee 2.

Griffee's said...

Hey long time no talk to:) I am back online now...congratulations on the new bambino!!! And I love the pick me up I get from your blog!

Kathlen said...

Thank you so much for this, I really needed it!