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In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~ Albert Schweitzer

The weekend was full of great and wonderful things, and for this reason, I gladly stepped away from the computer for a couple of days. My Friday through Saturday was spent enjoying time with out-of-town guests—some friends of mine who have always felt like family to me since our first encounter one fall day many years ago. That day would prove to be a fateful one for all of us involved. They came into my life at a time when they needed someone to help them out in enormous ways due to an unfortunate health crisis that they neither expected nor would be prepared to face alone.

Fresh out of college, I had a couple of going-nowhere jobs, was deeply discouraged, and felt lost in the world–stuck, really. Facing rapid burn-out and the dying-out of out of my idealistic nature, I yearned for a gap year. I needed the time to think and plan out how I was going to refocus my career efforts to match my personal goals. At the time, I knew I could always earn money as bookseller or in a café position at the local Barnes and Noble, perhaps pick up a server job on the side as I embarked on this necessary quest to utilize my degree in a meaningful way. When I took the time to ask myself and pray about what I was seeking, my answer was always the same: truth, meaningful experiences, significant internal change, love, and to make a difference in someone else’s life.

After mass one Sunday, I scoured the want ads and came across a job posting for a nanny position. Because I had worked as a mother’s helper between my junior and senior years of college, held plenty of babysitting jobs back home, and thought it might be just the type of work that could be equal parts fulfilling and fun for the year, I phoned the agency and landed an interview with this family on the spot. Soon thereafter, I was employed as their full-time nanny and fully immersed in their life as it was back then–a mix of crisis and relief, ongoing medical and therapeutic interventions, and the everyday happenings of a family trying to balance out normal during a shocking and trying time. Immediately, they enveloped me with their characteristically loving way and I soon became one of them. Quickly, I felt nothing but gratitude and love each day as I set about helping them to maintain some kind of normalcy while they focused on reviving the health and well-being of their young girls. At the time, I didn’t know just how much my heart, mind, and spirit would be stretched; how I would grow as a person and how greatly my perspective would change just by living among this one, incredible family. Nor, did I have any idea that fourteen years later this family would remain such a large part of my life.

If we are lucky enough in life, we will meet one person who will be the catalyst to our personal growth. Their impact will leave indelible marks on our hearts, perhaps change our behaviors, even increase our faith in love and God. These are the types of people who stick with us for always–whether they continue to share in our life or not. Some people can shape and mold us into who we’re meant to become. These friends of mine who came in for a visit this past weekend helped change my life and perspective years ago by living out their lives with integrity and care. They worked hard at putting their family and love above all else during an especially difficult time in their lives. They are friends who became like a second family to me and I’ll always consider them such.

Fourteen  years ago, I was seeking out an intense life-changing experience, one that would lead me out of the depths of my despair and into the light of life, turning me toward the path I was meant to take. My prayers were answered in the form of this one family seeking a trustworthy helper while they faced an uncertain, desperate time. I’m not sure if they knew it then or have figured it out since, but I needed them that year just as much as they needed me. My gratitude today is for their enduring friendship and all the lessons they etched on my heart, mind, and soul.

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