My favorite quote comes from William Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
I believe that Man will not merely survive,
He will prevail.
He is immortal.
Not because he alone among all the creatures has an inexhaustible voice,
But because he has a soul;
A spirit capable of compassion, and sacrifice, and endurance.
I also believe in Human-kind, and in our need and ability to connect with others around us. I believe that our lives derive deeper meaning through relationships. I believe it is important for us to understand that we are part of a larger community, and to find meaningful ways to contribute and enrich that community.
That can be as simple as being kind to others, a quality I greatly value. It can be as complex as joining hands to build a Habitat for Humanity House. There are so many ways our lives are interwoven, from watching out for one another’s children when they do something risky to those incredible souls who run towards the shooter and the injured.
Community certainly helped me when I decided to start my journey towards health. I had allowed my obesity to separate me from others; my shame kept me from reaching out for help. Dr. Joe’s kindness was the first crack in that separation, but many others soon followed. As I learned how to change lifelong habits, there were so many people along the way who made such a difference in my life.
First, and always, there was Marc, not just encouraging me but truly trying to understand the complexity of being emotionally, spiritually and physically fat. Jess, my first trainer, believed in me, encouraged me, and offered me her sparks of energy and joy that are an innate part of who she is. Michelle Renee, a personal shopper at Talbot’s who wiped my forehead of sweat when I was in a size 24 and celebrated when I moved into size 14. She told me about “Dress for Success” as a great place to take donations when I changed sizes. I felt like I was borrowing my clothes for a short while before I gave them to their true new owners, and I felt connected to those women as well.
Friends, new and old, who listened when I talked about the physical and emotional toll of obesity. Who were saddened that they had never known and who reached out a hand in that love and sorrow and beautiful understanding.
I didn’t just heal myself—my community healed me. All of the people in my life helped chip away at that massive wall that had kept me from being healthy and happy and fit.
This is who we are at our very best. Whether it is works of heroism or small acts of kindness, nurturing the connection between each of us is what makes us our best selves. Offering our hearts and our hands in support for one another isn’t just nice—it is what allows us to join hands together and rise above whatever life brings us.
If we choose, instead, to hunker down in hatred and self-protection, if we choose to hate, we will smother the essence of who we are. Hatred isn’t just lethal to those who are hated, but also to those who hate. It burns away all that we are, and all that we can be. It is the force that can prove Faulkner wrong.
I have faith that our nation will find its path again. I have that faith because our nation is made up of communities of people like all those who helped me help myself.
I believe the best that is in us will prevail.