by Vanessa Bailey
San Antonio, Texas, USA
Everyone dreams. Especially little kids. Ask a little kid what he or she wants to be, and you can be inundated with dreams. “I wanna be… a cowboy! an astronaut! a princess! And I wanna live in… a mansion! a palace! a forest!” And then there are the answers that take your breath away. “When I grow up, I want to be alive. I want to be warm. And I want to live in a house.”
I don’t know how Megan answered questions like that when she was a kid, because I didn’t know her then. But it wouldn’t surprise me if her answers had been the latter ones. Homeless off and on since the age of 12, surviving everything the street and society could throw at her, she is, to me, an 18-year-old walking miracle.
At 10 years old, Megan was working outside the home. Alternately abused and neglected, she was in and out of foster homes and the courts, and mostly out of school, even when she was there.
At one point, she decided that the best she could hope for was to get on welfare and stay there. Enter the cop. The cop gave Megan someone she could trust, someone who would listen to her. And the cop talked. A lot. The cop talked to Megan about responsibility, and growing up, and being accountable. The cop convinced Megan that there’s a lot to be said for standing on your own two feet, making your own way in the world, setting and achieving goals. Still basically homeless, sleeping in her car in the middle of bitterly cold snowy winters, Megan held on to the cop’s words. She would be somebody. She would be a social worker, and help kids like her. But first she had to graduate. Then find a way to college.
Working 40-50 hours a week, she graduated high school with honors, winning a scholarship to a state university. But to stay in her state was to stay in danger: the restraining order against her abuser was expiring. So she moved out of state, where she knew almost no one, and no one knew her. Megan landed a job and set about to achieve her dreams. Ineligible for grants due to her full-time job, and refusing loans, she is paying her own way through college. At the end of her first semester, she was on the Dean’s List.
Megan is already ahead of where I was at her age. What really amazes me is her lack of bitterness about her past. She will tell you that she had hard times, but they taught her that she can do anything, and be anything she wants to be. She knows she can survive no matter what, because she already has.
When I face seemingly insurmountable odds, and am scared of my future, I think of Megan, sleeping in her car, dreaming of better days, and then working to make those better days a reality.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.