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Two very different women come to mind when I think of heroes who have touched my life in a profound and pivotal way. One is a homeless woman and abuse survivor who suffers from multiple (or “split”) personality disorder; the other is a world-renowned author and disillusioned Catholic.

I met the homeless woman at a clergy abuse survivor conference, after she approached me with a perfect, red rose in hand and said, “Jesus told me to give you this because you need it and he also told me to tell you that he loves you.” She had approached several people at the conference in this way and had been rejected by many, as being “weird.” I felt compelled to hear her out and listened to her tragic, yet compelling, story for over an hour.

This woman suffered hideous physical abuses as a child that were so severe she was philosophically resigned to being “just damaged goods” for the balance of her life. Yet she persisted in trying to recover herself “with Jesus’ help,” and by reaching out to other people in pain, with flowers in hand.

Maybe she needed acceptance, more than I needed her outreach, but I ended up feeling as if I gained more real recovery from meeting her than I did from any other experience I had during that conference. To me, she embodied the worst of a victim-survivor’s fears, as well as their greatest hopes—so damaged, but transcendentally beautiful in her determination to give back only her best, to others in need.

My second hero is someone I met, via an internet discussion I joined because the topic--Reform Issues in the Catholic Church—arrested my attention. While I recognized the famous name of the discussion manager, I disregarded it as being “mere coincidence.”

The woman began to post complimentary remarks about what I wrote of my and others’ experience of clergy abuse. One day she wrote, “I think I am rapidly becoming your No. 1 Fan.” That did it. I clicked on her name hyperlink. Then I clicked twice more to assure that the results were correct. Every time I ended up in a famous author’s website.

I yelled to my sister, “Guess who’s the new, ‘No. 1 Fan’ of my writing?”

A personal email address was listed on the website and I wrote to her, positive that she would never respond to me offline. But she did. I have since learned that she has been a SNAP donor for many years and is tireless in her informal advocacy on behalf of clergy abuse survivors.

Most important to me is the fact she reaffirmed that I am a writer, at a time I had utterly given up on the idea of ever writing for publication--because my abuse experience had left me feeling unworthy of success and disabled of all ability to achieve it.

Yet, thanks to my new friend and mentor, I may yet realize the truth of the axiom, “The best revenge, is success.”

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