Growing up, I worked hard but struggled in various blue collar jobs. Fortunately, I met some women who exuded fearless grit with grace and class. They taught me how to stand tall in a world that can break you down.
I had my first real job when I was nineteen years old, working at a fast-food chain restaurant. It felt like the longest year of my life—hours and hours around greasy food while running to keep up with orders. I remember how shaken up I got the first few times customers got irate. One called me stupid right to my face.
But it was there I got to know Lucinda and Lois, a couple of ladies old enough to be my grandmother. Lois stood about five feet two inches, with a kind face that seemed to be glowing most of the time. Her sense of humor got all of us laughing, despite the hard work, long hours, and low pay. Lucinda was quieter, but she was sweet to everyone and always willing to help. They, too, would get abused by customers, but I noticed they never let it bother them and would be laughing again in no time. Their maturity and poise made a huge impression on me.
I never expected to meet some of the strongest women I’d ever encountered in a fast-food restaurant. These were women who would work fifty-hour weeks to be able to take their kids or grandkids on vacation, pay for them to take dance classes, or get them a favorite team’s jersey. They’d stand tall not only with rude customers, but to managers who were often indifferent or unreasonable. They didn’t back down or shed a tear, mostly, but on those occasions they did, they simply came back and moved right along saying, “It’s all grits ‘n gravy.”
The home lives of some of these coworkers weren’t exactly a walk down easy-street, either. I’d hear about financial troubles, divorce, custody battles, and grief. But these same ladies also rejoiced in family, beautiful weddings, healthy babies, and happy birthdays. They faced each battle with dignity while I listened in awe.
One day, I watched a coworker collapse in tears at hearing some heartbreaking news. But she did stop crying and got back up; it was like she grew stronger right before my eyes.
None of these women started out fearless. They were once just little girls, like me. I got a lot of hope from that. Heaven knows all the loss and pain we suffer in life isn’t easy, but it makes us more resilient and compassionate people if we don’t give up.
The lessons never stop because they’re part of being alive. Thank you to women like Lucinda and Lois, who showed me something really important about facing obstacles, getting back up after falling down, and learning from everything. Thank you for showing me what’s it’s like to be fearless.