As women, when we think about our careers and how we want to contribute to the world, we tend to land on helping professions. But what we don’t realize is how, even as just one person, we have the power to completely change the trajectory of the lives of so many people.
In this episode, I’m sharing an inspiring story of how one woman changed the course of history for untold numbers of people. This is a pep talk for all the helpers and healers out there, and I’m reminding you that your work makes a difference in the world and will continue to create a ripple effect.
This month we’re talking about vocation, vocare, your calling. If you are a person who has devoted your life to helping or healing, this week’s episode is for you. This is a pep talk for the helpers, and a reminder of the power of one. Let’s get going.
Welcome to the Unlock Your Life podcast, a podcast for highly successful visionary women who want more out of life. If you feel that ache of unfulfillment in your soul, you’re in the right place sis. Join life mastery consultant Lori A. Harris as she teaches you how to stop living for others and finally put yourself first. Let’s dive into today’s show.
When I was 14, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. At the time, this was in the mid-70s. I looked around, and I saw that there were a few things that women were expected or allowed to do in the professional arena. You could be a nurse, or secretary, a teacher, or a social worker. When I was 14, I went to court with a group of very young women who were new lawyers, and it transformed me. I tell this story frequently.
I just want to remind you that each one of those careers are helping professions. Frequently women when we think about our career and how we want to contribute to the world, we often land on helping professions. I know that the people in my audience, the people who love to listen to this podcast, are people who are givers, who love to help.
Oftentimes, we helpers, we healers, we can suffer from burnout. We can keep going and going and going to the point where there’s nothing left to give. But I want to remind you of how special you are and how much your work matters. And how your work will continue to ripple, and how you are already expanding your ripple in the world.
I’m going to tell you the story of one person. One person who was a social worker who changed the course of history for untold numbers of people. We can’t really even count the number of people that this woman helped. I want to remind you that your work makes that kind of difference in the world. This is the story of Dorothy Bailey.
Dorothy Bailey was a young woman in the mid-50s who was a social worker. She heard about a kid in the neighborhood, and she decided to go about and make it her business to figure out what the heck is going on with this kid. See what it happened was this little girl’s mother had died when she was 10. It so happened that when the girl came back to school after her mother’s death, it was time for national testing.
The kid tested, and surprise and shock and awe, she didn’t do well on the test that week. As a result of her testing, they took that child and they put her in a class that at the time was called EMR—educationally mentally retarded. So this kid was placed in the EMR class, and she clearly didn’t belong there. She could do every task that was asked of her. She started tutoring the other kids in the class, and she frequently was bored by the task that was required of her.
The teacher not knowing what to do with this very smart young girl told her you can go to library. So the kid went to the library. When she had exhausted all the books in her school library, teacher, not knowing what to do with very bright child in the EMR class, said, “I can get you a bus pass and a library card.” So she gave this child a bus pass and a library card and gave her permission to go down to the city library. So the kid was going there, and kind of educating herself for a period of time.
Dorothy Bailey heard about this. She says, “That sounds crazy.” So she rescued this child. She figured out rather than have the child exhaust all the books in the school library and all the books in the local library, how about we put her back in a class where she belongs and deal with the trauma that this child has experienced with losing her mom at such a tender age.
Now, Dorothy Bailey ended up being in this young child’s life for her entire life, all of Dorothy Bailey’s life. Dorothy Bailey stayed with this young woman and helped her to matriculate through life. So this kid went on to be an excellent student, not only an elementary, middle school, but also in high school.
When it came time for the kid to make a decision about what was next for her, the kid thought I’ll do what everyone else does. I’ll get a job. Dorothy Bailey said, “No, you won’t. You will go to college.” Then she says, “Okay, I’ll go to the local community college.”
Dorothy Bailey said, “No, you will not go to the local community college. You will go away to college because I want you to have the experience of an expanded vision of your life. If you stay here, you will get bogged down in the task of caring for your dad and being a primary caretaker for your father who’s unable to work. So I want you to go to college, and I have a vision that I think is possible for you to go.”
Young kid, let’s call her Elizabeth, says, “Oh, I don’t think I can do that. My brothers need me. They need me here to help with my dad.” So Dorothy Bailey took it upon herself to talk to the eldest brother and explain to him how much potential Elizabeth had and told her that she really, really believed that Elizabeth could do well at local college.
So Elizabeth did end up going to school. Dorothy Bailey was the support person for Elizabeth all through college. She would give her a couple of dollars a month for supplies, for pantyhose so she can when wear pantyhose to vesper and look like a proper young woman and helped Elizabeth do well all through college. So Elizabeth did graduate from college, and she ended up being a teacher.
So already we know that Dorothy Bailey has impacted Elizabeth slide such that now Elizabeth is helping others by being a teacher, but she didn’t stop there. Elizabeth went on to become a lawyer. As a lawyer, Elizabeth helped thousands and thousands of people in her career that’s expanded over 30 years working as a defense attorney. But she didn’t stop there.
Then Elizabeth went on to be a judge. Her work continues to help people from the bench. She has a very good relationship with the people that appear before her. She inspires people to believe that they can make a difference in their lives, and they actually look forward to coming to her court. It’s actually a very unusual situation, and that’s what happened with Elizabeth.
But why does it matter for me in my life? Well, that Elizabeth that I’m speaking of is my aunt, Hattie Elizabeth Harris. I was that 14 year old who saw Hattie Elizabeth Harris go into a courtroom with all their young friends dealing with they did. It inspired me and allowed me to see her making a difference in people’s lives.
I don’t know how I can express to you the kind of relationship that people have, the potential they have when you’re working closely with an attorney, but it really can change the trajectory of one’s life. I’ve seen it over and over and over again.
So when I think about Dorothy Bailey, I’m so grateful to her. Because her work way back in the mid-50s rippled and changed so many people’s lives, people that we can’t even count and account for. So when Mrs. Bailey decided to come in and take a stand and advocate for this young kid who clearly didn’t belong in a class known as EMR and fight the system and get that kid out. Then stayed with that kid throughout her life, and made a difference in her life, she didn’t just change that one kid’s life. She changed my life.
In my life getting better and being expanded and having a bigger vision, I can see the number of people that I’m able to impact and influence. I don’t change anyone’s life, but I am able to paint a picture and help people to see a possibility.
Now, that happened when I was working as a lawyer. It happened when I was working with incarcerated youth, showing them a possibility of what could happen if they just had the audacity to believe that they could change their lives. For each kid who bought it, who decided to take a stand, then that kid has the potential to have an impact within their own family structure, within their neighborhoods and communities. That kid can continue to ripple, but it all started back in 1955/56 with Mrs. Bailey making a decision to take a stand.
So I want to remind you that this is a pep talk for helpers. If you are wondering if your work is even having an impact, it is. If you’re wondering if what you do on a day to day basis even matters, it does. Because when one person believes and one person takes a stand, what happens is it causes an avalanche, a ripple effect. You get a little bit of a momentum going, a little bit of a snowball going just by you being you.
So when we have to think about what are our core values? What do we believe in? That’s one of the things that we will decide to take a stand on, to believe, and to be the person who is in those particular instances that give us an opportunity to serve.
So for me, what are my core values? I believe in freedom. I believe in liberation. I believe in love. I believe in grace. With those four core principles, I have decided to live my life. I have decided to live from a place of love and constant and continual grace and forgiveness. It’s not an easy road to take. It’s very, very difficult. Because when you decide to do that then opportunities to do that come up. It can be challenging but can be also rewarding as well.
This is a pep talk for the healers. This is a pep talk for the helpers. You are one such person who is making a difference in people’s lives. So when you feel discouraged, I want you to do for yourself which you are apt to do for others. Don’t argue for your limitations. Don’t fight for your misgivings and shortcomings. Believe just enough, just a little bit, just a little bit to allow yourself to take just one little, tiny step. Take one tiny inchworm move, and with that, you will start to build momentum. You will start to build a movement.
There have been times in my life as a community activist, as an organizer, as a lawyer, as an advocate that I have been engaged in a constant life of fighting. But I have decided to live my life from love, grace, and build a life of liberation and freedom. Love and grace will take me just as far and farther than any fight ever could. I want to invite you to join me with that journey.
So never, ever underestimate the power of one. The power of one person deciding to be a partner in believing for one other person. With those two people, they can get so much done. If you want to be that one person, it doesn’t require you to be perfect. What it does require is for you to show up. To show up and be consistent. To be honest and to be there, to be present. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to show up.
When you feel like you’re overwhelmed, you can share that. When you feel like you don’t know quite what to do, you can share that. But continue to share from a place of love and desire for the best for all concerned.
So remember, one tiny little inchworm move chained together with another and another and another gain momentum. You don’t have to know all of the answers, but you can take action on the one step that has been revealed to you. As the great leader, activist, and all around world inspirer tells us, Nelson Mandela says, “There’s no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”
What are those the desires? We all want to be free. Freedom is the decision that you make each and every day, a decision to live from a place of freedom each and every day. Be free. Do the things that free people do in the life that you have decided for yourself.
This is episode 45 of the Unlock Your Life podcast. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you this week. This has been a pep talk for the helpers. I hope that you remember, as a helper, you are helping this one person. In this one person, that act of grace will ripple so far in so wide you cannot imagine the number of people you are impacting. Keep going. Your life matters, and we’re so grateful that you are here.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Unlock Your Life podcast, I hope you will take a moment to stop, review, and rate the show. You can find it on Apple podcasts. You can follow us there. Leave a review. You could say it’s a five star review if you want to, or another way you can help to grow the podcast is to share it with a friend. It’s been my great honor to speak with you this week, and I look forward to seeing you next week. Remember, it’s your life. Make it a great one.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Unlock Your Life podcast. If you want more information on how you can transform your life and do it quickly, visit loriaharris.com. See it on the next episode of the Unlock Your Life podcast.