As with every invitation I receive to speak, I am honored and excited. I love sharing my story because I have been so blessed to see audiences light up when I share it. And it feels amazing to see people line up to talk to me afterwards.
My trip to Joplin was no different, but in a big way it was.
The ASPIRE scholarship program for single mothers asked me to speak at their annual scholarship dinner. They chose my speech, The Power of the Struggle, and I was ready to deliver it to this group of amazing women who I knew that I could relate to so well.
When I saw that the request was from Joplin, I remembered the devastating tornado that had destroyed the city a few years ago. I thought that would be a fitting tie-in to understanding the struggle and dealing with unexpected, life-altering situations.
As I sat in the Memphis airport reviewing my speech before boarding, I decided to look up the tornado that hit Joplin. My jaw dropped when I saw that the date the storm hit was May 22, 2011.
I opened my speech, “On May 22, 1979 I was born. On May 22, 1994, I got pregnant by someone I did not know and did not consent to have sex with. On May 22, 2011 this community experienced a storm that still impacts many of you today.
One of the single mothers had lost her fiance in the tornado while she was pregnant. There were countless other stories of tragedy and triumph, just like my story. Overcoming obstacles, surviving the storm, growing stronger in the struggle, and seeing the beauty after the devastation.
I am grateful to Bryan and Leticia Vowels for their love and compassion for others and for starting the ASPIRE scholarship which is changing lives for generations to come.