Donna Lee Schillinger is the author of On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women Who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free .
I hosted a foreign exchange student from South America who was raised in a very privileged lifestyle, devoutly Catholic and sheltered from the social ills that abound in her country. Despite all her good fortune, she rebelled against the good things in her life - clashing with her mother, the church and the norms of society in general. How I wished she would have turned that passion against the corruption, poverty and illegal drugs that were destroying her country. Instead, she was raging against the very things that had provided the privileged life she took for granted.
One day in Wal-Mart, she started testing me or perhaps she was teasing me. At the time, I thought she was sincere, but I realized with some reflection, she was simply doing what a rebellious teen does for fun. She picked up a magazine and announced that she wanted to die her hair red like the actress pictured on the cover. This was one of those unnatural reds for hair, like the color of blood. I told her I wouldn’t allow it while she was with me. My reason was simple – I didn’t want my nine-year-old daughter, who admired our exchange student, to tuck a memo away in her mind, “Die hair blood red at age 17.” I should have just said that and left it alone. But I couldn’t help myself. I saw an opportunity to try to enlighten this young rebel – to share some wisdom.
A discussion about stereotypes and the importance of other people’s opinions ensued and crescendoed into a heated and loud exchange in Spanish in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. If indeed this exchange was between a wise woman and a fool, an onlooker would have had great difficulty figuring out who was which – we both looked like fools.
If I taught that young lady anything that day, it wasn’t what I intended to teach, for sure. And yet there was some mentoring yet to come in that relationship. Over the 10 months she was with us, she asked many times, “What did you do when…?” or “What you would do if…?” In those moments she soaked up my words like a sponge. That relationship cemented for me that my personal experience is a far better teacher than my opinions are.
I’ve used that approach in On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free. I candidly tell about the many bone-head moves I made in youth (and there were so many to chose from that I could create a volume 2!) in hopes that some young woman eager to get her life right might learn from my mistakes.
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