My sister, Teri, was the eldest of six kids. She was popular, pretty, and had long, black hair that she used to iron on an ironing board to straighten, or sometimes she wrapped it around orange juice cans atop her head to achieve a perfect wave. She was beautiful, bold, and brave, and gosh, I loved her.

At the age of 17, rebellious and troubled, she hopped in her car and began her journey in search of herself and her place in the world. But after many years of wandering, some failed marriages, and an untreated mental illness, she ended up living in a drafty wooden shack, on a tiny patch of dirt, in an obscure little Texas town.

She forever struggled as a recovering alcoholic and was once a homeless panhandler. She was outside of the store begging for money the last time you went shopping; with dirty clothes, tangled hair, and a chipped, grey smile, she humbly asked you for spare change. That was my sister you turned your face from.

Most would judge her as a weak person. I do not.

She was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Because of many failures and misfortunes, she fell down often. But she would get up again . . . over and over and over. She just kept getting up. Imagine the kind of energy and tenacity that takes.

Teri passed away in 2006 of lung cancer. She was 52 years old and 34 days sober.

We are not all born equally into this world; some arrive with the odds already stacked against them; others are given no survival tools, or are beaten down by cruelty or bad luck.

So please, when you see a homeless person or someone asking for food or money, instead of judging and turning away, remember that they are someone’s child. And be kind. Be giving. Act like God is watching you.

Because HE is.

Categories: Addiction, Family, God/Spiritual, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Love, Mental Health | 15 Comments

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  1. Elaine Rance

    Hello Julia , what a very emotional journey, and the path that your sister had taken, and I am so sorry to hear about your loss. But I’m sure you were so proud of the way your sister had tried to turned her life around. But sadly was taken away from you with cancer. But her laughter, and memories, will
    Stay with you forever.
    Thinking of you Hun. Luv you XOXOXO

  2. Really enjoyed your post, you made some valid points.

  3. Sandy Leighton-Donahue

    WOW! What a powerful piece . . . made me cry.

    • Thank you, Sandy. That means a lot to me. And I hope you don’t cry too long, okay, girlfriend? Thanks so much for reading! Love to you! xoxo

  4. Lynn Marchant

    Strength could take a whole Lifetime to define. And how on Earth, do you fairly judge Another’s Lot? For me, ANYONE, with THAT MUCH Courage to answer, when Life beckons … and to set out, in search of Happiness and Good Fortune .. really, truly DESERVES it! Reading such an Honest, Philosophical and Loving Tribute, Julia … I honestly choose to believe, that Teri has reached the end of The Rainbow. And found her ‘Pot Of Gold’. Or rather, just EXACTLY what it was, she was looking for!
    Simply Beautiful ❤

  5. Lori Hall

    Very big Impressions for the heart, We can walk this earth of Plenty, and have so Little at the same time. I believe that when we have a soul walking among us , who may be somewhat misguided and Yet we are not focused enough to see that. We also are misguided. She had struggles Yes, But we as well fight them and have to honor the fight it took for her to move on to a sad or lonley place to find her peace. As much as she is missed. She has peace and she now has found home. I would imagine she is walking the Gracefull path of the Yellow Brick Road, You have painted for her.. xoxo

  6. Abbie

    Wow Julia Its way to early to have the amount of tears I’m crying, Whether its visions of myself or visions of my world I see them in your writing, I’m sorry you lost your sister & I hope during her travels you stayed in touch & as close as possible, Thank you for sharing your humanizing words that so many need to hear, whether it be homelessness or mental illness, we all have a closer kinship with it and most just don’t realize it…. Thank you for your blog!

    • Oh my goodness, Abbie, I’m so sorry for your tears. My sister and I did stay in touch, as much as was possible with her. Thank you so much for reading this and taking your time to send this beautiful note to me. You honor her and me with your words. I suffer from bipolar disorder. I have also lost an infant son, a sister to suicide, and a younger brother way too early, so I understand a lot about losses and about this journey called life. You’re a sweetheart and I thank you with all my heart for your tender note. You made me day. xoxo

  7. Pingback: PLEASE, MISTER, CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE? | Journey with Julia

  8. Reblogged this on Seasons Change, and so have I and commented:
    I hope that you will take the time to read this very thought provoking post xx

  9. Yes, you’re completely right. That person is someone’s kid, sister, mother, and once was a small child with no responsibility for whatever befell her. Better to act well and regret it than act badly or not at all and regret that instead.

    • Very true. Just the other day, I was at a shopping center and a young man approached me asking for change for the bus. As I was giving him some quarters, it occured to me that I always hear the same requests; either money for the bus or gas for the car. But then I thought to myself, “Don’t judge him. It doesn’t matter. Either give him money or don’t give him money. That’s the only thought I need to have. No matter what he uses it for – he doesn’t need my judgement. His name was Ryan. And I’m glad I gave him my handful of quarters. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and sharing your wise words with me. Please take good care. xoJulia

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