A Large Debt to Pay

Thank you

Friday had finally showed up! It had been an eventful week at work as my agency toiled to keep up with the influx of referrals that have been received over the past month. There are so many children and families who need help.

Needless to say the just-around-the-corner weekend was a welcomed sight. But Friday had to be survived first, and I knew it would take some extra effort to push through the 10 hours ahead. Armed with Starbucks and an extra on-call phone, I jumped into my tightly scheduled day; having no idea that today I would meet Rosa.

She is a petite woman, standing slightly over 5 feet tall. Her hair is long and dark, her face is simple and beautiful and her eyes are inquisitive. She arrived a few minutes before the ambulance did, delivering her son to our treatment center.

What came next was a whirlwind of consent forms, translators and prescriptions. Rosa chose to look mostly at the floor and occasionally at the translator, but generally avoided eye contact with me; and I’m not sure exactly why.

As our time together progressed, I began to gather facts about her. Rosa does not speak English; she’s also illiterate in her own language and doesn’t even have the ability to sign her full name. We compromise and settle on initials. She’s never held a job; that is one that she’s been paid to do, and she’s never had her own phone number, relying on the use of her husband’s cell when needed.

As complicated as these factors made our meeting today, there was a significant amount of time where it actually felt as if time stood still; as if I was a spectator, gazing upon a piece of art work in a museum. Initially I was looking at her. I saw first her outside; the slight wrinkles in her face, her overwhelming hesitancy; the rich color of her skin. Then I began to see her person and I wondered how trapped she must feel, encaged by her own limitations. Then suddenly I was looking at me, sitting next to her, examining just how different life is for the two us.

You see I have an education; sat in classrooms for just about 20 years of my life. I have a job, a career that I worked hard to get and collect a salary for doing. I have health insurance, opportunities, a bank account but more importantly an empowered sense of self. All things she doesn’t have, can’t have seeing as she can’t even fill out a job application, or read a book- regardless of what language it’s printed in.

I was flooded with empathy, as I imagine most women would have been in my situation, but more than a feeling of sympathy, I felt a deep seated need to express genuine thankfulness to the female individuals who acted as social pioneers, who laid each and every brink of the path I walked on that led me to where I am.

So thank you, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone. Thank you Emmeline Pankhurst, Eva Peron, Edith Wharton and Amelia Earhart. Thank you Margaret Thatcher and Sojourner Truth. Thank you Catherine Brewer, Ann Franklin, Hillary Clinton, Christine Ladd-Franklin, Elizabeth Blackwell, and the countless other women upon whose sholders I so humbly stand.

I am forever beholden to the women who chose to further the cause of gender equality regardless of the ominous barriers they faced, believing the same message that Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently voiced by stating that “the time is always right, to do what is right”.

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