(30 Days of Truth – Day 18 – Someone you met randomly that’s made an impact on your life)
Her name is Melissa Burch and I mentioned her in my very first blog entry. Here’s what I said:
“She barely knew me and she opened her home and her heart to me. She became such an inspiration for me, and I’m not sure I’ve ever told her that. She is so smart and so sassy. I love her spirit, her wit, her Susie Homemaker skills, her generosity, her beauty, her brains, her force, her everything. She is extraordinary and I love her.”
There was no one else that even came close to topping the list of people who fell into the category of random people who have impacted my life. I love telling our story because it doesn’t stop with our first meeting, or our second or even five years into our friendship. She just keeps bringing good things to my world and I don’t know how I’ll ever show her how much love I have for her and how much I appreciate her.
Back in early 2004 I was scanning the classifieds for possible part time jobs. I was already working a full-time 8-5 job, selling Avon part-time and going to school 2-4 nights a week but I’m a glutton for punishment. On a whim, I responded to an ad that said “Interviewers wanted. Flexible, part-time, must be willing to travel”. Many weeks later I received a call saying that they were calling about an ad I had responded to and would be in my area and wanted to set up an interview. Well, I interviewed and got the job on the spot. The problem was that I would need to travel to Chicago for 10 days of training. Of course the trip would be paid for but it would mean missing almost two weeks of work at my real full-time job. Also, even though the trip was paid for, I would still incur a substantial amount of out of pocket expenses up front. And all of this for a very part time job when I returned home. This was a lot to think about and my head kept telling me to thank them and politely decline the offer. However, something wouldn’t allow me to do that. I worked a deal with my then boss to ‘borrow’ against future vacation days and I borrowed enough money from family members to make it happen.
In late May, 2004, I flew to Chicago to train to become an Interviewer for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. As fate would have it, I ended up in a small group of trainees with Melissa Burch from Tampa, Florida. It was some pretty intense training with only one day ‘off’ to actually do some sightseeing in the city. A small group of us took the train into the city and enjoyed a whirlwind kind of day. During our evenings, we usually met up for dinner and then relaxed in our rooms. It was during this downtime that some of us women were able to form some new friendships and even make plans to stay in touch when we all returned home to our normal lives.
Over the next few months I spent many hours on the phone with some of those women, including Melissa. It only seemed natural that when she started planning her birthday party in September that she invite me to come for a visit and attend her party. If course I agreed and planned to drag my mom along and to make a long weekend of it. We left Alabama early one Friday afternoon and headed south for a much needed get away. It never occurred to us to check a weather report. That is until we hit I-75 South and noticed that we were the only, and I mean ONLY, car heading south. However, the northbound lanes were backed up as far as the eye could see. After a quick call to my uncle, the man who knows everything there is to know about the weather, we discovered, through his laughter, that hurricane Jeanne was making a bee-line for the east coast of Florida. Oh crap was all I could say but I didn’t for one second think of turning that car around. It was the wee hours of Sunday before Jeanne crashed our party. Before I left to come back home, we had several discussions of me returning in late October to join Melissa for a trip to Miami for a Halloween party. Of course I said I was all in.
Now flash forward to October 22, 2004. I was in a job that I hated and was being directed to do some unethical accounting so I walked out. Now what you need to understand is that I had been searching for that part time job months earlier because I was seriously struggling financially. Walking out on my job was not the smartest thing to do at that time and one of the many repercussions of no longer having an income was that I would not be able to make that trip to Tampa/Miami the next weekend. I called Melissa to tell her what happened and she presented me with one of the craziest suggestions I had ever heard. She said, “Why don’t you come on down a day or so early and check out the job market down here?” Hmmm. Well, I had no valid argument against that so I said what the hell. The thing about me is that I’m not a very patient person so I hit the internet and started my search a few days early. I applied to almost every temp agency in the Tampa Bay area in the hopes something would present itself to me.
What I didn’t expect was that on Monday, October 25, I would get a call hiring me, sight unseen, and asking me to start the next day. I explained how that just wasn’t possible but I could start on Wednesday. I promptly called Melissa and asked her just how serious she was about me coming early and sleeping on her couch to check out the market. She said she was serious. I said Good cause I’ll be there tomorrow to start my new job on Wednesday. Once she recovered from the shock of it, we mapped out a game plan and I packed a bag and headed south again. This time there was no hurricane to slow me down.
I arrived in Tampa on a Tuesday afternoon in October 2004 and I have never looked back. I knew in those first few hours that this is where I’m supposed to be. I knew that something great awaited me in this scary, wonderful new city. I just knew.
For months I lived with Melissa and her family and I’m sure I would not have the life I have today if not for Melissa and her generous soul. She housed me and supported me when I couldn’t even afford to buy my own lunch. She took me places and showed me what living life outside of Small Town America was really all about. She took care of me both physically and emotionally during those months I lived with her, and long after I found a place of my own and was able to financially support myself again. Melissa never once asked for anything in return. Never, not once. Ever! Do you know how rare a trait that is in a person? Melissa paid it forward with me tenfold. She took a chance on me when she barely knew who I was. I pray that I’m someday in a position to impact someone’s life the way that Melissa did (and still does) for me.
I couldn’t help but include this video of Hurricane by Needtobreathe. It’s these lyrics specifically that I think are most appropriate for this post.
In the light of the mourning
Can we change what we felt and heard
Can we turn it into the glory
Break the paths of our fathers before us
Though we stand on the outside
We will find what we once believed
And will crawl our way to the clear skies
Standing up we are
Standing up we are