A Life Superior to Circumstance
During the Collins Children's Home 40th Anniversary, many of the stories shared come from a child or young adult's early stages of life.
My account comes from over 20 years of insight since my family left the Collins Children's Home. Especially the ways my time there impacted my life well into my adulthood.
"Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance." -Bruce Barton
This quote poignantly serves as a reminder to me to believe that my life's circumstances do not define who I am today.
My Life Started with a Bad Man
I started my life with a bad man. He was a con artist, a manipulator, an abuser, and a former priest. These things didn't mean anything to me as a child. I only knew he was a horrible person to us.
I didn't realize the implications for people to find out he was a priest until I was much older. I met people who were Catholic. As an adult, I've learned the Catholic faith didn't represent any of my father's distorted values. I believe he used his manipulative ways to convince others he was a Godly man.
He used his time as a priest to disarm people into believing they could trust him. He refused to raise us in the Catholic church, and I suspect it was to avoid us learning the truth about him. (He also lied his way into a civilian job as a psychologist working for the Air Force. He didn't have the credentials to do that job either.)
When I was a one-year-old, my father spanked me and threw me across the room into my crib. The abuse only got worse as I got older for the next eight years of my life.
When I take a moment to reflect on 'the what if's" of my life with my father, I believe it wouldn't have mattered how intelligent I was; my circumstances would have impaired my success.
I wouldn't have the self-confidence I have today. I would have never pursued a successful career as a fraud technology manager for a cellular phone company.
No, I believe my life path would have taken a darker direction.
A Truly Pious Man Enters My Life at The Right Time
God helped give my mother the courage and strength to reach out for help when I was ten. She contacted Joe and Anne and the Collins Children's Home. Joe and Anne accepted the challenge to take on four young children. (Though Anne has had a strong positive influence in my life, that's a story for another time.)
This story is about Joe. As this strong man is growing physically weaker by the day. I wanted to think back about the influence he has had on my life.
Joe was the antithesis to my father. Joe is an honest man, a genuinely religious man; a principled man; a selfless and caring man. Joe could have allowed his difficult early childhood to impact him negatively.
He could have decided to stay the course as a successful engineering manager and pilot. He could have bought his 48 acres of land in Oconee County and built a beautiful home for his core family.
The Collins Children's Home was Born
Instead, he chose to help children in need. He built a beautiful home and filled it with his family AND children that needed a haven from abusive and neglectful families.
When I look back, I can imagine this was no easy task. I was a difficult child for a time. Angry, abused, and emotionally wounded by a man I trusted.
At the same time, there were nine more children like me in varying stages of grief and anger due to the challenging beginning of their young lives.
Since that time, there have been countless more children that Joe saw could benefit from his wisdom and knowledge. He worked to better their lives just like he did for me.
Joe taught me to have a strong work ethic, which served me well, marked by my career advancements. Joe taught me to make sound financial decisions.
His compassion for us, combined with his strong moral values, exemplified CS Lewis's quote, " Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching."
His Legacy Will Live On
Though not always perfect, I passed the same lessons on to my two stepsons. I didn't repeat my early childhood experiences of violence and anger as my biological father taught me,
I chose to share the values of a man who decided to be part of my life for six great years.
As I enter the next phase of my life and Joe begins to exit the last stage of his, I'm tremendously thankful he created a legacy that will live on long after he is no longer in this world.
I'm grateful Joe decided to follow God's path and show me that if I dared to believe...my life could be superior to circumstance.