Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jaycee Dugard & Elizabeth Smart..... Two Women To Look Up To

When I think of these two names, I think of stalwart women who, though they have encountered experiences we will never fully understand or comprehend, have proven that what happened to them won't shatter them. I stopped short of saying...'haven't defined them' but perhaps, in some way, maybe it has.

I do not remember hearing about the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard June 10, 1991 in South Lake Tahoe, CA, although I'm sure I did at some point see it on TV.  But it wasn't until she was found August 25th, 2009 that I (re)learned about her story.  Just recently, she gave her first interview with Diane Sawyer about her horrific experience for those 18 years.  I was captivated watching the interview. 

I do remember more clearly the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, June 5. 2002, who was later found March 12, 2003.  I will never forget this picture of her that was plastered all over the television.

Just recently, Elizabeth testified in the case against her kidnappers, in which she described in detail her experiences while she was gone for 9 months in captivity.  I look at her now, as well as Jaycee, and am amazed at what I see.  And what is that? I see two women who have taken their experiences, and have not allowed themselves to be defeated by them. I see two beautiful women who are looking forward, not trapped in the past.

There is plenty in the news these days that cause many emotions on many different levels, whether it be political issues, natural disasters, the economic state of our country, but it is the stories of these women, that captivate my attention and give me hope to any of us that suffer for WHATEVER reason.  Why are we drawn to these headlines? Why do we care so much about what happened?  I don't care about hearing all the immoral details that transpired while these young girls were stolen from their family.  What I care about is how they are dealing with it now, what they are doing with their lives RIGHT NOW and the things we can learn from them.

I will never fully grasp, at the most minimal level, what Jaycee or Elizabeth endured.  Yes, there are thousands of children who are kidnapped on a daily basis, and what they go through is no less meaningful than these two women. But I have chosen to dedicate this post about them, because of what we DO know about them. Their strength through these devastating experiences has, simply, made me want to be better, do better, and more importantly put my life into perspective and try harder to not whine and complain about my own circumstances.  Because when I think about it, the things I have gone through or will go through, could never compare to what Jaycee & Elizabeth lived.

I look at Elizabeth Smart now and am impressed with her desire to help others.  She served a mission for the LDS church in France, she's a music major at BYU, and now will help ABC with missing persons cases with her perspective. There are many who have criticized her decision to do that, but frankly, I admire her willingness to help others she can relate with.

I love what Jaycee Dugard has said..."He's not going to own me. I will stare it down and I will not be afraid." ( speaking of her kidnapper, Philip Garrido)  I look forward to reading her memoir that has recently been published, 'A Stolen Life'.  I am sure she will have many insights that will be helpful to us all.

I think Elizabeth hit the nail on the head when she said this, speaking to her kidnapper Brian David Mitchell, "I also want you to know that I have a wonderful life now, that no matter what you do you will never affect me again ... You took away nine months of my life that can never be replaced. In this life or the next, you will be held responsible for your actions and I hope you're ready for that when the time comes."

I would venture to say we've all probably asked ourselves, "Would I have turned out okay if that ever happened to me? What would MY mental state be?"  I don't think we ever really know HOW we will react in situations like that, or any trial that may seem to put us over the edge before we encounter it.  But what I do know is this, that it IS possible to turn an ugly situation into one that can make us better people. Jaycee and Elizabeth are people WE can learn from.  I'm not saying these women don't have any lasting negative affects to them personally. I am sure they still deal with many issues surrounding their time in captivity.  We will never truly know what it is like for them. But what I see of them now, impresses me.  I admire them for their willingness to be open about their stories.

The way we react to trials in our life says much of who we are, and what we will become, meaning.... we can either learn from this, move forward and be determined to not allow a certain person or situation "own" us, or we can do the opposite.  I firmly believe it also takes the effort of our loved ones we surround ourselves with to help us, and most importantly God.  

Some might shoot back, "How would you know how to ever deal with anything like this, how can you be so sure YOU wouldn't be filled with rage and anger, what about those that are psychologically messed up from tragedies that have happened to them in their lives caused by others at no fault of their own."   Those are all good questions and reactions, I suppose.  Diane Sawyer asked Jaycee how she could go on, and if she was filled with anger.  She responded by saying that she was not, that if she was to continue to be that way, then he would have won.  She was not going to let him win, she was going to take control of her life.  And if you think about it, she was taken from her mother, her sister, for 18 YEARS!!  She was raped repeatedly, lived in a shack in the back yard, birthed two daughters by this creep, yet she refuses to allow herself to be filled with anger.  I don't know of many other people who have endured what she did.  And look at her now.  She was a smart enough 11 year old, to keep a journal of what was happening, what she was feeling, what her dreams were.  What an example, that's all I have to say, that's all I CAN say.  

So when I am upset because I live in a house that is a constant mess because of remodeling and my children are sleeping in other parts of the house, I really ought to be thinking to myself....'I have my children with me, they are living in a house, not a shack in the back yard.'  When I get frustrated with my children from time to time because the house may be a mess, or they may not be listening and obeying as I think they should, I really ought to be saying, very loudly, "My children are safe in my home, I have them here to love and to cherish and am watching them grow before my eyes, they are not stolen from me, held captive, being raped, tortured, and missing out on their childhood."  And when my children want me to sing to them every night before they go to sleep (because they insist I do it, and can't sleep UNLESS I do it) I ought to be grateful that my children are with me, in my home, safe in their beds, where I CAN sing to them every night, because it's my voice they want to hear before they drift off to sleep, not some psychotic kidnapper's voice brain washing them and abusing them.

Jaycee Dugard's mother described the last time she was with her daughters the day Jaycee was stolen from her. She said that every morning she would kiss her girls goodbye before she left for work, but for 3 Monday mornings in a row, she'd been late. She didn't want to be late again, so she didn't take the time to kiss them.  She regretted that ever since and told all of us, you and me, to just take the time to do the small things for our children.  And there was Jaycee, in the interview, comforting her mother, telling her it was okay, how could she have known.  

These are the kind of examples our world needs.  There is so much anger, so much crudeness, and plenty of unkind people.  These are women who don't take for granted what they have, they realize what they've lost, and are more determined than ever to make the best of their lives because they have so much to give.  It IS up to us how we react to the cards that are dealt. I firmly believe that God does not allow us to be in any situation that he feels we can't handle.  Is it excruciatingly hard at times?   You better believe it, but if Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart can get through THEIR trails in life, then so can I.  So perhaps, in some small way, this HAS defined who they are now, in the most positive way we could imagine.


  1. Hi Shell,

    I too watched Jaycee's interview. It was amazing. The worst day in my life, is still better than her best day was in captivity. Your post is beautiful. I am so glad we have these two lovely women to learn from. Thank you so much for writing this; your words are so eloquent. I need to go; time to kiss my children goodnight. :)

  2. I agree with Julie, you are such a wonderful writer Shelley! This was a fantastic post, one that I will try to remember often so that I can be grateful for each moment that we are free, with our sweet families, in warm homes.