Choosing hope over fear

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama told the nation, "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

These words still were ringing in my ears later that morning at a meeting of the Jackson County Homeless Task Force. They seemed uncannily apt when Betty Wolff, of Rogue Retreat, shared the story of one local woman, named Crystal, who recently won a $2,000 scholarship from Soroptomist International for an essay she wrote.

"Everything that could go wrong in this woman's life had gone wrong," said Wolff. "But everything that could go right is now going right."

The Medford 30-something mother of three survived homelessness and domestic abuse, and now Crystal is using her troubled past to fuel her desire to be of service to others, Wolff said.

The person she is today evolved from her will to succeed, and the unwavering love of her children, wrote Crystal, in her essay "The Person I Am."

For 15 long years, Crystal allowed herself to make poor choices — the most serious of which was staying in an abusive, alcohol-fueled relationship with the father of her children, she wrote.

"Together, we drank daily. Which only increased my depression, and his rage," she related.

The physical abuse was horrific.

"I have been thrown around more times than I care to recall. I've had my hair ripped out, been kicked, spit on, bruised ribs, cracked head, you name it," she recalled.

But the mental abuse inflicted upon her was even more devastating. On a daily basis, she was told how fat, ugly or stupid she was.

"Hearing these lies so often somehow began to shape a false sense of reality," she wrote.

Crystal finally realized that if she wanted to live, she must leave.

"Since the lies have been exposed, I am healing," she said. "I know I am beautiful, worthy and deserve to be happy. I am strong. I will survive and succeed beyond my expectations."

Crystal wants to succeed for herself and for her children. She has concerns because her young ones witnessed this cycle of domestic violence, even as she did with her own mother. She prays this miserable legacy ends with her.

"That my daughters never experience firsthand this trauma upon themselves. That my son is never an abuser," she said.

To ensure that this is so, she, and all her children, are in counseling.

Crystal has a job, a home and she is continuing her education.

"Education is our best tool, and our most powerful weapon," she wrote.

Crystal is training to be an advocate, "to be a voice that helps pave the way for others."

"Looking back, it is hard for me to believe that I let myself be treated so badly," she said. "I had to learn to love myself unconditionally."

Reading Crystal's words, another quote comes to mind from a man who also used his voice — and the power of unconditional love — to pave the way for millions — including our 44th president.

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant," said Martin Luther King Jr., when accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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