Friday, November 23, 2007

Me and Richard Paul Evans

This past Monday night, I went to Joseph Beth books in Rookwood with my friend, Jean, to hear Richard Paul Evans speak. I have read almost all of his books and love them. I have heard him speak several times and each time I am touched with his genuine gratitude for his readers. There were about 100 people in attendance which is a pretty small group. He spoke for about half an hour and then he allowed us to ask him questions. He spoke about his work and also gave us insights into his personal life which were quite interesting. Then he signed a whole bunch of books. Not only did he sign our books, but he greeted each one of us, shook our hands and spent a few minutes visiting with us individually. This always has impressed me because no matter the crowd, he has done this at every book signing I have attended.

Since being married to Eric--NASCAR fan that he is--I have had several opportunities to wait in line to meet famous people. I am not one that likes crowds and waiting in line for hours is one of my least favorite activities. What struck me about this particular evening was that as many times as I have heard brother Evans speak, this was the first time that he really talked about his personal challenges. The main character in his most recent book suffers from Tourette's syndrome. I was surprised to find out that he does also. I had never noticed this during his previous book signings that I had attended. He candidly shared his challenges with this illness.

In a lot of ways, I understood how it must have hurt to be the "freak" at summer camp. I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. In addition to that the psoriasis on my skin didn't make things any easier. I have been brought to tears after hearing the cruel words spoken by classmates at school. My mother took me to the doctor and he yelled at me and told me not to eat so much--like that was the real problem--then he prescribed some diet pills for me which were horrible. Obviously they worked really well. After that, my mother didn't take me back to that doctor. I am thankful that she understood how important it was that I had good self esteem. She took every opportunity to build me up. When I was a junior in high school I weighed about 200 pounds. With some hard work I was able to lose 40 pounds and managed to keep it off for several years.

This was a difficult time for me, but it was also a happy time because I had the support of my family and friends who loved and accepted me. As I look at the world today, it is still hard for those who are different. I can see that in some ways society is more tolerant of those with weight issues, because so many of us have them. I also see that we have a long way to go to be completely accepting of everyone. The last line of his book says it all... "Don't cry so much. In the end, love wins."

I know this to be true. In the end, love is all that matters. The love that we share with each other has a powerful effect on us. It heals the wounds and scars of this world. It gives us the strength to make changes in our lives. It helps us feel safe and secure. And most of all it brings true joy to our souls regardless of whether we are giving it or receiving it.

As we enter this holiday season, I am thankful to be celebrating the ultimate gift of love. The gift of a Savior who loves me unconditionally. He, who willingly sacrificed himself to pay for my grief, pain and sins. He, who is there to celebrate my triumphs and is continually reaching out to lift me higher. Because of His blessings, today I shed joyful tears instead of the sorrowful tears of my past. To you, my friends, may this truly be a season of love and joy as we celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ.


lou said...

You are such a dear !!! It's sad for the people who only judge others for how they appear on the outside because they miss the opportunity for great friendships which can only begin on the inside. Does Eric know how blessed he is? (I know he does). I (AGAIN) love this blogging and getting to know everyone so much better through thoughtful entries like yours.
ps- who is Richard Paul Evans? I don't read much church stuff (Long story)- have anything I can borrow?

Papa D said...

WHO IS RICHARD PAUL EVANS?!?! That's like asking, "What is 'The Work and he Glory.'" (and you call yourself a Mormon woman?!) **hearty laugh**

Thanks for the insight and the reminder, Sylli. I know it wasn't nearly as painful as weight, but it's interesting that children will pick up on about anything to tease someone who is different - in my case, being told "you're stuck up / think you know everything." When Stephon was living here, we heard very subtle and very direct racism on a regular basis - thankfully, only once at church, from a teenager who had lots of other issues, anyway.

It is wonderful to know that we are loved for who we are on the inside - no matter what form is visible on the outside.

Leslie said...

I love you! You are a beautiful woman, inside and out! You have so much love and kindness that you share so freely! Thank you for your example and for sharing this with us.
I am sorry for the hurts that you have borne. I am sorry for the trials that you have faced and do face, but I am grateful for the person they have helped you to become.
Hugs to you!!

Mama D said...

Love you, Sylvia! What a wonderful treat to meet R.P.Evans, and you even have a pic! I met Anne Perry once at a book signing (also LDS, mystery/Victorian era/WWII writer, I love her books).

I think there are many hurts we experience. Sylvia, I think your mom was a genius to recognize your need and help build your self-esteem! I love that the Savior sees us and knows us from the inside out, and loves us as we are and as we can become.

Papa, be nice. (smile) Not everyone would know who R.P.E. is (or Work & Glory). Lou, he is LDS but doesn't write exclusively LDS novels. Very well-written, feel-good books about relationships and the power of love. (in a simplified nutshell) Worth reading (and quick reading, too)! Maybe his recent one should be the next book club reading?

Patty said...

It's sad that others feel so bad about themselves that they have to stoop to hurting others who are different than them just to lift themselves a little. I'm so glad your mom worked so hard to help you to know how precious you are. You are a gift to all those who know you!