When I was in eleventh grade I had an amazing history teacher, Mr. Delsetti. He made history come alive, literally!
When he was going to do a lesson on the Revolutionary War, he dressed as a soldier complete with uniform and replica gun. When we were going to study about Scotland he dressed up in a kilt, shirt, sash, cap and marched up and down the hallways blowing on a bagpipe! I just loved the guy...most of the time.
I had a very difficult childhood, which for a long time colored my life. My father was mentally ill and abusive to all of us including my mother. My maternal grandmother loved my siblings and me. She was my saving grace! Since my mother worked full time, Grandma did her best to spend as much time as she could with each of us and keep us safe yet it was challenging since she was basically raising seven children, all of us, including my grandmother, victimized by my father.
I learned at a young age to keep quiet, stay out of sight and lay low when I did have to be seen. I got so good at it that I learned how to make myself invisible in a crowd of people. I learned by necessity to be the “good little girl” yet within there was a tsunami of hurt and anger ever present just under the surface waiting to be released.
Here is where Mr. Delsetti comes back into the story. For years I quietly sneaked under the radar through school, barely being noticed nor wanting to be. I knew everyone and was a confidant for many, yet always kept my distance, never feeling safe or worthy of being noticed or befriended. Yet, Mr. Delsetti did see me. He did know me. He knew that I was hurting and suffered in silence with my stifled voice.
For months Mr. Delsetti would try to get me to talk by asking me to stand and answer questions; to participate in group discussions. I thought he was picking on me! As a good little girl, having learned so well how to be seen and not heard, I took it and took it until one day I couldn’t take any longer. I was so angry, so frustrated at life, my situation, at myself. Something in me snapped as I glared at him, the anger rising as he kept on “picking on me”. I finally couldn’t contain myself. I griped the edge of my desk, leaned forward and yelled, “Stop picking on me. Why are you doing this? I hate you!” He just calmly stood there, which enraged me more. I got up and ran out of the room. I sank to floor outside the room, sobs of hurt and anger bubbling up from a place deep within me where I had safely buried my feelings, my voice!
I have no idea how long I sat on that floor. What I do remember so vividly is Mr. Delsetti, a gentle giant, 6’ 3”, a good 300 lb. man, quietly saying, “Congratulations! You have a voice”. Then he walked away. It took me a few minutes to understand what he said. Congratulations? Congratulations for what? I have a voice. What does that mean? Then I realized he hadn’t been picking on me. He had ever so gently been encouraging me to talk, to use my voice, to know and remember my worth. I am eternally grateful to him!
Who in your life assisted you to find your voice? Loved you enough to help you remember your worth? Take some time to reflect on who it was – a parent, a grandparent, sibling, teacher, friend, maybe even an animal friend? Whomever or whatever it was, take some time today to reflect on the gift they gave you and tell them, “Thank you” from your heart, using your voice!