"That secret kept me sick for 30 years. For 30 years, they told me I was crazy, and they said the horrible things from my childhood never happened. They just kept covering it up. All they did was yell and yell, and no one would stop and listen to what I had to say. So I just drank away my sorrows for 30 years. But now I've been sober for 3; I made it through. I'm movin' on."

When I first sat down next to Cindy, a homeless woman who has breakfast every Friday morning at a shelter in South Bend, Indiana, called "Our Lady of the Road," I was nervous. Cindy seemed pretty distant and almost annoyed, as if my presence wasn't needed. I started to feel silly, sacrificing my Friday morning to spend time with homeless people in my own broken city. Wondering what I was even doing there in the first place, I was about ready to move to another table when Cindy started a conversation.

"Yeah, they sure did try to cover it up, didn't they?" She looked at me with a questioning glance, as if I already understood her dark past. I held my gaze with hers so she knew I was ready to listen to her story, whatever that may entail.

"They tried to cover up what happened in my childhood," she continued. "You see, my step-dad...he wasn't a good man. But they covered it up because they don't want the people at school talkin' about our family."

After letting Cindy talk for a few minutes, I began to piece together her story. As I stared into her piercing blue eyes, her poignant past pierced my heart. Cindy grew up in a abusive, violent household. Her step-father both physically and sexually abused her every single day. Yet whenever Cindy told her mom what had happened, her mother denied it and made her promise not to tell anyone at school or else "people would start talkin'." So for the majority of her life thus far, Cindy has let this twisted secret keep her sick.

"No one would believe me. I tried to tell; I tried to bring it to court. I wanted to get him in trouble. But no one would listen. So I just drank and drank, thinkin' maybe I could drink away my past."

Yet just when I started to wonder if there was any hope left for Cindy's life, she filled my soul with joy at the sound of these words: "But now I've been sober for 3 years. Now I don't need my family anymore. I'm movin' on. I made it through. I made it! I made it!" On her face was a smile of pure triumph.

Next week, Cindy is leaving behind 30 years of homelessness and is beginning life anew, in her own house, with her boyfriend, her 21-year-old daughter, and her two grandchildren. "My new family is all I need now. And as long as I'm healing and taking care of myself, everything will be okay. I will be strong."

Although Cindy and I are now distanced not only physically but socially as well - with me here at the University of Notre Dame and she at the South Bend Center for the Homeless - Cindy is no less of a person than I. In fact, Cindy's strength surpasses my strength on any given day. Cindy is more of an inspiration than I will ever be. I will never have to go through some of the things she has gone through. On days when I complain about friendships or school work, she's just happy to finally get a 5-minute, freezing cold shower, or maybe a clean load of laundry once a month. Her strength and her newfound sense of purpose fascinates me in a way that I haven't been fascinated by another human being before.

As long as I live, I'll never forget Cindy's final words to me: "And when I get that new house next week, I'm going to put a big heart above the door. Because it's going to be a place of love. Every child should be raised in a home of love. No violence, no yelling, no matter what. Only love. Everyone is deserving of love. And you should never, ever give up on anyone, especially those who struggle with addictions. Just love. That's all you gotta do. Just love. Just love."

If that isn't evidence of God's grace then I don't know what is.

My challenge to you this week is to take Cindy's words to heart..."Just love. That's all you gotta do. Just love. Just love." Remember that the sole purpose of this life is to love and be loved. Everything else is secondary. Live a life of love and rejoice in the eternal love of a Savior dying (literally) for you to fall in love with Him.

Romans 8:37-39 ~ "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


  1. Wow, What a story! You are right, Cindy is a lot stronger than most of us! God has not forsaken her and she is a gift to us!


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