Where are you from?

Such a seemingly simple question…but is it really? I was recently in class and we were asked to go around and state our name and where we were from in an effort to get to know one another. As I waited for my turn, I thought how silly this exercise was…Does where I am from really have anything to do with who I am? And will knowing where my fellow classmates come from really do anything to foster a connection or help know them any better?


The quick answer is no. But as I thought about it, I realized something…


Where we are from does shape who we are, but it’s not the geography that makes the difference.

I am from a mother who clawed her way out of poverty. A mother who struggled every day to support three children, even when no one was willing to support her. A mother who fought through, and finally out of, several abusive relationships to freedom. From her I learned to never give in to the dire circumstances of my life, no matter how bleak they may appear. To put my children in the fore front and keep fighting for them, even when no one else was in the background to fight for me. And most importantly, to never settle for a love that hurts.


I am from a sister that gripped my hand as we huddled in our bedroom, counting the screams from the living room, waiting for the storm to blow over. A sister who has loved me through every awkward phase of my life and every break-up. Never more than a phone call away and always ready to pray with me or just listen to my tears. A sister who is really a best friend. From her I learned I am never alone in this world or in my own struggles. No matter how isolated I feel in life, there is one person who can always see me, always understand me, always reach me.


I am from a baby brother who gazed up at me with soulful blue eyes as I used my body to shield his car seat from the harm of a phone being whipped across the room. Just grazing my back, the intended target being my mother. A brother who grew up resenting always having a second mother in his life, yet still always turned to me when the need for comfort or safety arose. A brother who still feels more like a son to me than anything else. From him I learned the fierce need to protect those you hold dear. To stand firm in the face of fear for the ones who are too weak to do so themselves. To ultimately grow into the loving and protective mother I now am.


I am from a best friend who stepped up to the plate at the birth of my first son, when his father abandoned us. A best friend who encouraged me to push at every Lamaze class while she learned techniques to keep me calm. A best friend who rushed to the hospital when it was time. A best friend who followed me home and got up in the middle of the night when I had nothing left. From her I learned that the love that we need, might not always come from where we expect it. That friendships can be fleeting and some friends only last for a season, but if I am lucky to have a few true friends in my lifetime, that is enough.


I am from a man who was patient with my previous baggage, gentle with my past scars, and forgiving of my flaws. A man who possesses a love that is truly patient and kind. A man who sees me not just as who I am in front of him, but as who I am deep within myself. From him I have learned that I am finally safe in my emotions and in who I am. That pure love really can exist in this world among a man and a woman. That I am capable of loving someone so much that two really do become one as God has intended.


I am from a group of women known as the Woman’s Co-op that is diverse in so many ways, yet all share so much in common. From a group of women that may come from the same places I do, while others come from places I can never understand. From a group that knows that no matter where they come from, or where they are going, they will always come together when a sister is in need. From them I have learned to see the world in a bigger way. To never judge someone by a first impression or even a second or third. To practice forgiveness and humility, and appreciate when they are extended to me in return. To never underestimate the power of women and friendship.


When my turn came I simply said “Hi I’m Jessie, I’m from Toledo.” And it was on to the next student.

I know most of those among me that day will never truly know who I really am and where I come from, but I’d like to think that I carry the essence of myself and what I have learned around for the world to see.


Every experience we have, every person we encounter will touch us in some significant way… It is up to us to decide how we will let where we are from shape who we will be.

One Response to “Where are you from?”

  • Val:

    Powerful reflection of where you came from. I find myself asking this question a lot. As an adopted child this question comes up a lot. Who are my real parents, where did I really come from. I know of my family that adopted me and what little they have been able to share is great. So I started out to find the person that I was. Who, the why and what I found was simple.
    I am the product of a woman who was not ready to have children or who didn’t have the capabilities to raise her 4 children that she had.
    I come from a family that was also separated at birth by their own parents, all 12 of them.
    I come from a family that learned how to understand the issues that they faced and learned how to deal with those issues.

    The question and answer are always so different for different people and pose a great time for self reflection and thought..
    So where do you come from????

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