As you read this newsletter, I’m retracing my steps - back to the first day of school, back to the early years of middle school, back to a place I called home in my formative years … Lima, Peru.
As a grown woman, I work with others helping them understand how various life experiences have truly impacted and shaped their authentic selves. Those experiences adeptly define the personal values that mean the most to us, ones we want to represent and ones we seek in those that we hope will be in our tribe.
I am not as interested in the persona we often become after years of layering on protection, acquiring needed educational and work skills or, learning how to be politically correct in order to fit in. Rather, I am interested in the heart of a person, outer veneer discarded, revealing dreams, hopes and vulnerabilities. And I’m certain, that most of us wish you could see and accept this peeled back version without an inkling of judgment.
I’m not sure I ever stood a chance. From the moment the little street kid put his mud-caked small hand out, palm up, to my five-year old self, the pilot light to my young soul’s desires was ignited. I did not see him as dirty or untouchable as children connect without even speaking. He was simply different, and he needed me, in my white pinafore dress, to help him if I could. As my mother took my hand and continued to make her way down the broken and pitted sidewalks of Lima, I looked back at the little boy, my own footing unsure. I sensed I had more than him, but inequity was not yet a word in my vocabulary and my comfort zone sat squarely within the safe home my parents had created for me.
As I progressed through elementary school, poverty was all around me and showed up as dirt and straw homes with no running water or electricity, the hungry and disabled praying and watching for grace and the growing knowledge that there were more “have nots” than haves. I was somewhat shielded from it in a home behind walls with shards of glass lining the flat rooftop that housed the servant’s quarters. I rode the bus to school each day dressed in a navy jumper, white blouse, a little red tie and pigtails attending Roosavelt, the American school, with other children from the expat society.
My mother’s job was to take care of her small family. She learned “kitchen” Spanish and I learned Spanish from Hoss Cartwright who spoke it perfectly on Bonanza each afternoon with his entire family. My friends were my books starting with the Bobbsey Twins and graduating to Nancy Drew, and I learned to be comfortable with my own company. I made friends with a couple of young girlfriends that I stay in touch with today - friendship came as a premium, not to be discounted ever.
Over the years, I have come to learn that the things that we value most are as a result of our life experiences. If we have been lied to, honesty will be essential to us. If we have been asked to dim our light, courage or the confidence to shine will be important. If we have felt boxed in, freedom will be key and if education has not been available to us, curiosity and the knowledge that it brings will be vital.
In reviewing my own life, I know that the most important thing in the world to me is equalizing the playing field. This is a direct result of the imprint that was placed on me as a young child. As an adult, I created a women’s organization that would help provide financial assistance to the unbanked at the bottom of the pyramid through microloans. As the only woman in the c-suite, my hand has always been extended to young women behind me, pulling them up the ladder. As the founder of a non-profit, education for next gens about social enterprise, as a vehicle for change, has been a joy.
I am back in Peru now with a wiser view of the world. This cosmopolitan city has changed and grown. I plan to go back to my roots and spend an afternoon with an organization that feeds street kids and offers them education. My hope is to help them understand that it is life’s experiences that make you who you are as a person and that even in the toughest times, we can find a silver lining. Though their version of reality today will impact their tomorrow, the core of who they are, the things that are most important to them, has already left an imprint on their soul. Clear with that knowledge they will do great things for our world.
Copyright © 2019
All rights reserved – Linda Lattimore