While growing up, I met some fearless women, working hard at blue collar jobs with more grace and class than a lot of corporate VIPs. From these ladies, I learned to stand tall in a world that often tries to break you down.
I had my first real job when I was 19 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, even calling me stupid to my face…over burgers and fries.
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 in spite of 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 hollered at 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 place like that. These were women who would work 50-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 homelives of some of these coworkers weren’t exactly a walk down easy street, either. I’d hear about financial troubles, divorce, custody battles and grieving. 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 woman collapse in tears at hearing some heartbreaking news. But she did stop crying and get 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, falling down but getting back up, and learning from everything. Thank you for showing me what’s it’s like to be fearless.