Our journey through life can take us down many roads. On those roads are life changing experiences, challenges, lasting relationships, and chance meetings with inspiring people. Think about the number of people you encounter on a daily basis and who, if any, remain in your life for a short time or even a lifetime. Call it law of attraction, chemistry or coincidence but we attract people into our lives for a reason -- having an affinity for certain qualities that other people possess.
For me it was an encounter 10 years ago with a 9-year-old girl who was enrolled in the Big Brother Big Sister program, whom I was matched up with to be her mentor. We spent a few hours each weekend together and she taught me just as many life lessons as I taught her. Despite the hardships she endured, her spirit remained high and her enthusiasm for learning new things soared. Her motivation to be somebody astounded me, and still does to this day. It's been 10 years since we first met and she has evolved into an authentic, joyful young lady always present and engaging. Life has been a struggle for her but she continues to fight the fight and forge forward never looking back. That's what I love about her. As Sha'keyma reflects back on her life, it's clear that 2010 was her happiest holiday season ever.
"When I was a child it seemed like each Christmas got worse and worse with every passing year. Instead of being happy I remember crying because my mother was rarely around to spend it with me. I lived with distant relatives who taught me never to expect any gifts because I did not deserve to get any. I never received any of the things that were written on my Christmas list so after a while I stopped writing a list. I always did my chores and continued to get good grades in school, but on my birthday and Christmas I was told not to look forward to anything. For me Christmas was not a time of celebration. That seems like a lifetime ago. Now that I have children of my own, I know how different I want Christmas to be for my two boys, Rakeen and Randy.
My life has been a series of obstacles that I have always had to over come. These experiences have made me wiser, and my heart bigger. This past year was the most challenging one for me. Earlier in the year, Randall and our children were forced to move into a shelter. During that time my mother passed away from H.I.V. That day in the hospital I thought my world was going to crash down around me. A week after my mother's death we received the news that we would have a place to live and so we moved into our very own two-bedroom apartment.
From that point on I knew life had more in store for me. Things began to fall into place and I began to thrive, I wanted more for myself, and my children. I have learned that I do deserve good things and I do deserve to be happy, and I AM worth it. Once I starting thinking this way, opportunities began to open up.
Christmas this past year was exactly what I envisioned and was amazing. It was the first year I had a real tree. The Dozen Divas, which is a team of girls from the organization PROUDgirls surprised us with the best holiday I've ever had. They came into my home, while we were out, and turned it into a Winter Wonderland, decorating it with lights, beautiful ornaments and lots of gifts. I felt like it was a secret wonderland, a dream come true. With tears in my eyes, I hugged each of the Dozen Divas individually. They loved my children and helped them each open up one of their gifts! I was given cards to read and each of them had little inspirational quotes from the girls, which really gave me a boost of confidence. I smiled so much that night my cheeks began to hurt. I wanted to share something intimate with them in return for their generosity. I asked them if I could read them a little paragraph from the book I'm writing about my life and they were all excited. I wanted them to know that they did something extraordinary for someone who took it all in and appreciated it. This was my special thank you to everyone.
But, it did not stop there. My family also received a full-course dinner from a custom caterer so we did not have to cook. Carl and Linda the owners of the catering company came to personally deliver the meal. We had ham, potatoes, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, and Apple Pie. The meal was fantastic and we loved it.
I was so lost for words because no one has ever been this generous to me in my life. The hardships of my past are gone forever. I am rewriting my story. Christmas now has taken on a new meaning for me and I will never look back to the days when I was told I didn't deserve it, because now I KNOW I do. This chance meeting with the Dozen Divas made a huge impact in my life and will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life."