Women Who Inspire Change: Susan

Sarina Kelly, Guest Contributor

We were all together in the local grocery store, which was an unusual occurrence. Dad, Susan, Peter, Bella, and me never went shopping for groceries, but we were new in town so maybe Dad was afraid to leave us home alone. Whatever the case, I wasn't happy about the situation.

I was probably being sullen and moody—typical behavior for a soon-to-be teenager who had just moved away from everything she knew to live with her father and new stepmother. School had just started and I was bothered I didn't fit in. All the kids in my class wore Wranglers and boots while I showed up clad in Levi's and sneakers. They knew about horses and I'd spent the last six years taking ballet.

Whatever prompted my childlike tantrum, Susan (a.k.a. you-are-not-my-mother) responded in a way no one I'd known before had done. She sat me me down. Then sat down beside me. And asked if I wanted to talk. Right there. On the floor. In the middle of the supermarket. Dad was mortified.

I agreed because I was thousands of miles from my mother—the person I had wanted to confide in—but I made the split decision that this traitor who had married my father and moved us three states away would do. Our backs pressed against the shelves stocked with cereal boxes and oatmeal. We were small town newcomers sitting on a dirty linoleum floor to have a talk and a cry.

Susan sent my Dad and siblings off with the cart and the list to finish the shopping. Whatever was bothering me became the most important thing for Susan and me. She didn’t ask me to wait until we got home. She didn’t dismiss it with a statement about all us of finding the transition tough. She honored my youthful feelings and acknowledged my 12-year-old reality by listening. She chose me over everything else in the moment.

This woman who barely knew me outside of the barrage of dirty looks and cold shoulders I gave her showed me love and compassion. I felt so comforted. And so relieved.

I might not remember what set me off that day, but I remember Susan's warm arm around my shoulders as we left the store. I remember knowing I had an ally who thought I was important. I’m sure we didn’t solve anything tangible that day, but I discovered I had someone who cared.

Susan's presence in my life repeatedly taught me the importance of listening without judgment. I learned that everyone has a story that deserves to be heard and how good it feels to have a voice.

When I created The Faces of Choice blog, I had Susan's teachings in mind. Making change is not about me or my agenda; it is about sharing our stories and having the right to be heard. It is about accepting each person where we are at right now and offering a supportive gesture. Susan knew I deserved that then, and I know we all deserve that now.

Photo credit: Indy Charlie

Women Who Inspire Change: Joanne N. Smith


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