A story of success

November 2018

What is success? For some, only wealth and power define it. For most, success is living a nice life with a job, a home, a family, an annual vacation, perhaps. For many, success is getting out of bed in the morning.

Let’s meet Billy-Joe. This young man, in his early thirties, is too familiar with this last definition of success. So how did he move from despair to hope? From isolation to the joyful anticipation of a Christmas baby?

Billy-Joe was a sickly baby, and very thin. The doctors said he needed to gain weight. And so a loving Grandma made that her mission. Soon Billy-Joe was a chubby child, then an obese boy. Unfortunately, his weight made him an easy target for all the bullies who lurk in schoolyards. In order to protect himself, he spent long hours at home, finding fun and relief in front of a video game. But, eventually, the bullying led him to quit school at 17. He found a full-time job at a gas station, so he could contribute to family finances. When work was over, it was home to the console, granola bars and pbj’s. Fortunately, he had a few good friends, and through them, at age 18, he met the love of his life, Janice. Six years later baby Miranda was born.

Over the next few years Billy-Joe worked at a variety of jobs, always managing to support his family, though it has been payday to payday. In the meantime, Janice began attending programs at Our Kids Count off and on for several years. One day, when his day off coincided with an OKC breakfast, he decided to join his family. “I wanted to make sure it was a safe place for them,” he said.

This was a big step for him as strangers had often been unkind and even cruel. To his surprise, the staff was friendly, smiling, inviting, and most of all, respectful. He was asked if he would like to join their Every Parents Group. So he did....and found a corner to sit in and just watch and listen. He heard stories so similar to his, saw families so similar to his, all treated with kindness and respect. It was a great family outing and he began to feel better about himself. Soon he was helping out in some of the Community Kitchen programs.

After a year or so Billy-Joe was asked to join the planning committee, eventually taking a seat on the committee’s executive. As one of the few male attendees his point of view was much appreciated. He was slowly being pulled out of his shell. Billy-Joe feels that he has become a better father. He has learned skills like calming techniques and light meditation to ease his anxiety. He now understands that as an introvert he needs quiet time to recharge, so instead of feeling guilty, he now knows he is stronger for taking care of his needs too.

Billy-Joe still faces many challenges. He is learning to eat a wider variety of food (“The chickpea burgers were really good!”). His weight, though starting to cause health issues, is coming off slowly. He and Janice are learning to cope with their daughter’s Type 1 Diabetes. He wants to learn how to garden. There are days when he struggles to get out of bed, but they are rare. Mostly he focuses on his successes. He has learned amazing coping skills. He is learning to cook. He owns his home, which has two levels rented to family members who provide not only needed income, but lots of love and support. He has a job he really enjoys.

He knows success is found in the everyday, ordinary steps he takes to be a better person. Oh, and that Christmas baby? He or she is actually due on Christmas Day.

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