Last night over 600 women (and a few men) gathered at SIMT to hear Elizabeth Smart speak at Carolinas Hospital System’s “Healthy Woman” kick off event. I felt privileged to be there, to be a part of what this young woman brought to Florence.
At 25, Elizabeth Smart has grown into a beautiful young woman. She is small and quiet– but have no doubt– she is a force to be reckoned with. When she was kidnapped at 14 she made a decision that she would survive. Not only did she survive, she has thrived. She uses that experience to propel her forward and to reach out and help others do the same. Through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, she is working to bring a program called RadKids to every community.
Last night was a sit down dinner as well as her story. The dinner was wonderful, kudos to Nick Townsend. We dined and had conversation as we listened to Kipper Ackerman, a harpist. The room was decorated beautifully, and although it was a large room with over 600 people the setting felt intimate.
When Elizabeth began speaking, the room became totally silent. Silent tears flowed down faces as she told her story. I won’t recount the story here, as it is not my story to tell. Instead I will tell you that I was incredibly moved and forever changed. She reminds us that every one we meet has a struggle. We are all attempting to overcome some sort of adversity in our life. When she was held captive, there were two guiding principles that helped her stay focused on survival. 1) God would always love her, no matter what. 2) Her mother and her family would always love her, no matter what.
I was struck when she said that the one thing she took from this experience is how grateful she is. Grateful to God for not abandoning her, and grateful that she now can reach out to others and try to help prevent other children from being harmed. She has made a choice that her kidnapper is not entitled to have one more minute or day from her– she will not let him take away her happiness again.
At the end of the program, she took questions. Someone (thank you!) asked her if she would play the harp for us– and she agreed! It was an absolutely beautiful end to a monumental evening.
I truly believe that every person there last night was affected by what they heard. My friends and I have been continuously discussing it. How does she do it? How does she stay so positive and so focused? Knowing her answer is helping us to discuss our own faith and beliefs. Her website is going to give me tools to discuss with my own children.
Thank you Carolinas Hospital– thank you for bringing us something that will generate discussion and help us to become healthier women.