Imagine my surprise when Melissa Wood showed up at my door soliciting donations for an upcoming demonstration. We hadn’t seen each other since high school so I invited her in for coffee to give us a chance to catch up on things.
As it turned out, Melissa had spent a good deal of her life involved in one rebellion after another. To hear the excitement in her voice and see the sparkle in her eyes when she spoke about her activities, you would have thought she was talking about having been on some exotic excursions around the world instead of protesting some Peewee baseball league for not letting a girl play on a boy’s team; or boycotting a retail giant for their hiring practices and treatment of employees.
Melissa and I whiled away the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon reminiscing about our days together growing up and our lives after having lost touch with each other. It was a lot of fun for both of us and then the time came when she had to leave. We exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, promised to call each other and finally hugged and said our goodbyes.
Later that evening, I felt an agitation come over me and couldn't put a finger on it at first, but then I figured it out that it had to do with Melissa. Nothing bad, just the way some of the things she had said still lingered. I shut the tv off, poured a glass of wine and went outside to sit on the glider. In the far left corner of the yard, a moonbeam revealed a skunk waddling along the back edge near the bushes foraging for something to eat.
I watched it moseying along with an air of uncaring arrogance. Its whole demeanor exuded confidence; it didn’t care if I thought it was pretty, cute, ugly or that it smelled. The more I observed, the more my thoughts formulated and the more envious I became of it. Then I realized that it wasn’t really about the skunk at all; my envy was actually toward Melissa and the life she was living.
Melissa had graduated from one of the finest law schools in the country and had worked for a prestigious law firm until one particular case changed her whole life. She had a transgender client who had been the victim of discrimination and in the process of researching the case and defending her client, she became astutely aware of the number of people who face various forms of discrimination and persecution because they don’t have the educational or financial means to fight back.
A short while later, she left the law firm and began championing the less fortunate. She told me how she drove a taxi cab to help supplement her income. What was most spectacular to me was how Melissa stressed that her motivation for getting up each morning was the happiness she felt in her heart knowing she would be helping someone have a better quality of life.
I’m not sure at what stage of my reflection I finished the wine, but as I continued my contemplation, I understood how Melissa was like the skunk in that she didn’t care what people thought of her or how they judged her because she was living her life as she wanted on her terms and reaping the benefits from it all. She was proving that the greatest invention of all time was the human heart and the compassion and love it can hold for others, especially in their time of need.
Two days and three phone calls later, I was on my way to meet up with Melissa. I was filled with an excitement and happiness I had never known before because for the first time in my life I was going to actively take part in helping someone have a chance at living a better life.
October 06, 2013