SAD EARLY LIFE WAS BUT A STEPPING STONE TO A HAPPY AND FULFILLING LIFE
Motivational speaker and inspirational author Derek Clark shares a part of his life in an effort to inspire others to never give up and to never let the past infect their future.
This is the true story of my life. A life in which abuse, loneliness, and dark nights of despair rattled the very bones of my body, drained the tears of my spirit, shattered my mind into a million fragments, and left me for awhile plodding through life as an empty shell, a lost and helpless soul. I have breathed the air of the unloved, and suffered deep psychological and spiritual wounds due to abandonment at an early age by my mother and father. I have blamed myself for a past over which I had no control. My trust in people was displaced with hostility and anger. And yet, my spirit would not be broken. I have fought for survival in the name of love, powered by a dogged will whose voice never stopped telling me to NEVER GIVE UP!
I was a five year-old kid, and already a survivor of appalling events. I have never known my father. My mother, having given up on me, placed me in the County Social Services Foster Care System. She was desperate to be rid of me. The saddest, most inexplicable part of this was that she kept my younger brother and older sister. I was devastated knowing I had been deleted from my family. I was now motherless and fatherless. I loved my mother, brother and sister, but my love for them wasn’t enough for her to keep me in the family.
She claimed she could not control me, and that I was a “devil,” but I now know she was the one out of control. I was the child and she was the adult. I am not to blame for the predicament I found myself in. That is life; it is unfair.
Watch Derek Clark’s TEDx Speech On The Power of Determination!
There are millions of little kids who have been given up on, and I hold their parents completely responsible. The ignoble actions of parents will always be remembered by their children. I know, because that five year-old foster child still lives within me, constantly striving to be empowered, to make his insecurities my own. But I refuse to be a victim; I am a conqueror. I am stronger than my unworthy parents!
There is no question; the mental and physical struggles of my life have proved very difficult to overcome. They say the first five years of a child’s life are the most critical to his or her development, and that children soak up everything they experience like a sponge. I agree. I have seen my own three children sponge both my strengths and weaknesses. Kids watch their parents, and mimic what they observe. The influence of my first five years contributed to many destructive behaviors throughout my life. I often wished I had been given away at birth, so that I wouldn’t have had to endure the memories and nightmares which have haunted me these many years.
There is always a lesson to be learned from adversity. I have learned many such lessons the hard way, but have found there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The light that leads us out of the darkness is the positive energy that comes to surround those who continually search for what life has to offer. The answer is always within. By harnessing this positive energy you can accomplish anything. Nothing has ever held me back from “going for it.” I have not let anyone or anything stop me from making my dreams a reality. I keep on keeping on. I am an unstoppable force. I am headstrong and know exactly what I want. I have always trusted my intuition.
My search for life’s meaning eventually brought me through a baptism by fire, which cleansed my soul. I am like the mystical “Phoenix” that has risen from its own ashes, a resurrected soul, a lost boy who evolved into a man. In life’s journey, I was meant to shine.
It is this journey in which fractured souls are made whole again. It is this journey in which wounds are healed and pain is finally replaced with love and peace.
Written by Derek Clark
There is Always Hope…
Sitting in this basement all alone with my son.
Contemplating, hatin myself for all worthless things I’ve done.
All the people that I hurt and things that I’ve said,
I try and fall asleep but can’t get these voices from my head.
So I’ll take a shot… maybe one… maybe two.
Jack is not the answer… but you don’t know what I’ve been through.
You say you wanna save me, but don’t know what to do…
they say I’m too far gone and I’m afraid that’s it true.
But there’s a God much greater than I.
He loved me so much he sent his son out to die.
If he loved me like that, then surely he does you.
Little do you know he felt the pain we go through.
And it’s funny all the people that will say
that they’ve sinned too much that he will turn his head away.
AND we think we have it bad so we blame him,
my cousin overdosed, he could have saved him!
If there was God, my husband would be here with me,
instead he’s spending Christmas with his new family…
I’m single mom and can’t handle the emptiness I feel,
so I try to make it better by taking all these pills.
It’s a scary world when you live it alone,
all the sin that I’ve done would have your mind blown
But it’s blessing there’s a God much greater I.
He loved me so much he sent his son out to die…
If he loved me, then surely he does you.
Little do you know he feels the pain we go through.
And it’s funny all the people that will say
that they’ve sinned too much that church will will burst them into flames
So much anger, so much hate.
But it’s time to let it go, or I will never see the gates.
I know the fear you feel, I felt at 14.
When my uncle snuck in, and took advantage of me.
Time after time, I made up excuses…
but if they really loved me,
I wouldn’t be covered in bruises.
But if we would take a step back,
and let his love shine in,
then everything we’ve gone through would finally end.
It took hitting bottom to finally show,
that the life I was living wasn’t what he chose
Jesus died on the cross, for a sinner like me
and though it’s undeserving, by his grace I’m set free.
By Allison Pardi
Hi, my name is Kayla McNeely. I have been in the foster care system for about 8 years, and I can honestly say that it’s been quite the journey. I have been in 11 different foster homes and 1 residential treatment center. I was put in the foster system for many reasons, it was the hardest thing but also the best thing I ever went through. Leaving my biological family to live in a stranger’s home, wondering how mad your biological family is at you, how awkward it is in the stranger’s home, how their kids are looking at you like you’re a weirdo.
The longest placement I have been in is the home I live at now almost 2 years. One of the reasons I have moved around so much is from when I was younger, I felt so guilty leaving my family, even though I knew they weren’t good for me. I still loved them and wanted to be with them because they were my family. So as a kid I never let a family love me or let myself accept the love because I felt as if I didn’t deserve it because I thought I abandoned my family for strangers. You, as a foster parent, might not understand what I mean about this but I guarantee the first time a child says to you that “You’re not my mom,” or “I wanna go home,” or “my parents never made me do that,” you’re probably going to think to yourself “I took you out of a bad situation, gave you a safe place to live food, heat, a good example of how things are supposed to be,” but the sad thing is, we don’t see it like that.
Sometimes, we see you as the enemy. We might feel like you took us from our family, that you think you’re better than our parents, that we don’t belong there with your good food, nice house, etc. Of course, these things aren’t true but we think they are. Another reason I never stayed in one placement for too long is because If I felt close to the family or felt a pinch of happiness I expected to be kicked to the curb. So, what I would do is test my foster parents, and of course, most of them failed. I can tell you from experience and from other foster kids we push and push and push until you finally give up. We are always waiting for the day you tell us we’re moving.
My best advice is: don’t give up on a kid too easily. Countless times late at night with my foster sibling I would sit up and talk about when our foster parents were going to give up on us and what would happen to us next. Also, if we confide in you, and trust me, that’s a big deal. It means we trust you, which is hard to do when you are in foster care. The one thing that helped out was that my foster mom not only tried to talk to me and help me understand what was happening, she also talked to my mother and would tell her things that a mother would like to know about her daughter. It helped to see that my foster mom didn’t look down at my mom, that she wanted to help her get me back. And that was important to me because it made me feel like there was hope. Now after 8 years and 12 placements I am a strong, independent adult who takes care of her son and goes to school.
I have found my family and I have accepted their love and let them in mine and my son’s life. And trust me, I have tested them and they have passed. I have also found my bio families, which a lot of kids will want to do as soon as they get old enough. It’s nothing against you, we’re just curious. So as you welcome kids in your home with all different stories, ages, fears, and issues, have faith in them, don’t judge them by their file, don’t think of us as a paycheck, or a house keeper, think of us as your child that you would do anything to protect and help through anything, no matter how hard it gets there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Because honestly if we were your real kids you couldn’t give them back to DHS and say,” It’s not working out.” Ground us, talk to us, get mad and disappointed in us but don’t send us off. Do what you would do if we didn’t have a return policy.
I wanted to share because Derek Clark helped me open up to others about my life and it felt great!
No Name Poem
By Jennifer M. ( was in foster care for 3 years from 15 years old – 18 years old)
The verdict is in, we were abused.
Children with baggage, is how we are viewed.
Never mind the fact, that we are children all the same,
Negative presumptions are forever, attached to our name.
Abandoned orphaned forgotten and alone,
Evaluated analyzed medicated-now grown.
Organizations and people, work hard to find a fix,
But education and prevention, don’t always do the trick.
What about those, that have already endured the anguish,
We are all around you, you just don’t speak the language.
You see, sometimes it’s not about fixing what is broken,
Sometimes what we need, is an understanding that’s unspoken.
Acceptance love and patience, are welcomed by us too,
And not just because you’re sorry, that we have been abused.
Can someone please see past the life we never choose?
Can someone please recognize our heart and how it glows?
We don’t want your pity or your favor, and we don’t need your advice!
Our parents made bad decisions, and we are tired of paying the price.
Please look past that which you see in black and white,
And please stop trying to understand; you will always loose that fight.
Therapy is not anymore for me, than it is for you,
Because we are all people in life, awaiting our debut.
Ours is coming soon, and we hope you don’t choose to have small minds,
Because when we have our moment, time will not rewind.
You will lose the opportunity to have ever made a difference,
And you will be left in the shadows of our never ending brilliance.
Here is an amazing person that I met recently. He was so inspired by my speech that he wrote me this letter and poem. You have got to read this!
My name is Adam Caron. I spent seven years of my childhood in the foster care system. There were many times when I sat locked in a dark room for days at a time, sobbing and pleading to just go home and be with my family. Granted things weren’t great where I was from originally, but at least I had a family that cared about me until foster care took that away. My hatred consumed me for a long time and throughout that time my anger was the thing that kept me going. I might have just ended my life otherwise.
I met my real father when I was seventeen and a half years old and I accepted him into my life, probably because it was the only hope at a real family that I had left. I aged out of the system at eighteen and moved seven hundred miles away to where my biological father was living, otherwise I would have been homeless at eighteen. I left Nevada behind but I held onto the anger and the hurt. The transition to adulthood was rough and eventually I decided that suppressing my emotions would be the best way to “grow up.” I mistook burying my past for getting over it. A couple years have passed and things have turned painfully monotonous and most of the time I find myself going through my day with a sense of disorientation and confusion.
Last week I attended Camp To Belong Nevada for the seventh year in a row. As a youth in care, Camp To Belong was a haven for me, a place where people cared about me and I could forget my life in care for a little while. I continue to go back and volunteer each year. This last year, we had a guest speaker named Derek Clark. I wasn’t particularly interested initially, however within ten minutes I was completely lost in the story. Derek spoke shamelessly about his life in care and the story hit so close to home at times that I could feel the emotions that he must have felt in those situations. When he finished speaking, I felt a sense of clarity and self awareness that I hadn’t felt in two years. I had suppressed my hurt so much that I had forgotten who I was and how I really felt.
Following the speech, Derek asked all of the kids to write a rap or a poem about anything they wanted to write about. I sat in the room watching kids write and reflecting on everything that I hadn’t thought about in two years. I picked up the pen and let everything that I had suppressed surface.
I owe Derek Clark a thank you for helping me rediscover my feelings and helping me to understand that those feelings and emotions are a part of who I am.”
RAGE by Adam Caron
Some say rage is no way to live your life,
It will destroy you, devour you from the inside.
I remember not so long ago, there was a time
When rage was the only thing that kept me alive.
Locked in a room, screaming at four walls.
An animal in a cage with nowhere to crawl.
Isolated and alone with no one to call.
Most of time spent wondering if anyone cared at all.
One dream shot down after the other.
Beat down relentlessly blunder after blunder.
Afraid that I would never again see my brothers
And hoping that my mom still knew I loved her.
Years and emotions faded away.
I bit the bullet, bit down on my rage.
I counted the time day after day,
Refusing to die and refusing to beg.
Promising my self that they would never break me,
Only growing stronger from the rage they gave me.
Not what they expected, but I am what they made me.
Indestructible from the torture I endured daily.
They took my childhood and stole my humanity.
There were even a few time they almost took my sanity,
They stripped me of a lot of things even my family.
They murdered a child and created a calamity.
But I took my rage and I stole my freedom,
Decided to fight even if I never beat ‘em.
Telling me I was worthless and that I need them,
Little did they know, they were going to take those words
And they were going to eat them.
By Derek Clark, Inspiring Motivational Speaker and Author
Here I was, a child desperate for love and affection, a scared little boy who was getting ready for what would be the longest ride of his life. I can’t say I remember the drive to the orphanage, or the place where kids were stored, but I do remember not bringing along any toys. I remember the sun being out and the sky being blue. The day was pleasant, warm, and peaceful, in stark contrast to the foreboding anxieties that were raging inside me. I didn’t know where I was being taken, only that this day would likely be the darkest of my life. The “longest ride” eventually ended at a place I considered an orphanage. It was a big building with lots of space and rooms. I figured it was an orphanage because all I saw were homeless and unloved kids. Kids who were no longer wanted by their Moms and Dads. I could see the sadness and fear in their eyes, and imagined that same fear must be showing in mine. We were now disposable, kids who could be thrown away or tossed overboard, never to be loved or comforted by our parents again.
Seriously, who would have cared if we were drowned or burned to death? At this point, it was already like we were being buried alive. We were being killed, suffocated, by lack of love. We were now the county’s worry, pain and nightmare. My parents had given up! They were weak, and now I had to somehow become strong and survive. I felt deep misgivings and anxiety, the memories were killing me. I kept thinking, ‘Where is my big sister?’ I thought that surely she would come and rescue me because she loved me. I expected her to show up at any minute. But nobody came! Here I was, a helpless little five year-old boy, and my heart no longer beat for anybody but myself. Hope was lost for me at that point.
I don’t even remember seeing my mother’s eyes, or her giving me one final hug, or her even saying something as simple as “I love you Derek,” or, “I will be back for you son.” How could she not even give me a goodbye hug? She was the one who had placed both herself and me in this position.
I was the son, paying the price for all of her bad choices. She could have at least said, “Well, take care Derek, I love you.” Or how about just a few basic words of tenderness and encouragement? “You will make it through this Derek.” Even something negative, critical, or hurtful would have been better than nothing: “I blame you for all of this,” or “Derek, you are the devil,” or “Derek, I hate you for what you have become,” or “Derek, you forced me to do this, I blame you!” But NO, nothing was said, and the indifferent silence was more painful than any words could have been, no matter how angry or loveless.
I guess it wasn’t like she was wishing me well as I went off to college. I’m sure she quickly got rid of me in order to avoid the emotional impact of her actions, of seeing herself throwing away her own blood, her selfish desire to choose her husband over me, her son. But as her blood son, I probably reminded her of past mistakes, of the regretful choice she made to start a romantic relationship with my biological father. I have no doubt my stepfather comforted her, and told her she was making the right choice in giving her son away. Even as a little boy, I was certain he had been the one pushing to give me away. He was a piece of crap! No doubt he still is today. He broke up our family. I hoped that every day after he gave up me he lived a life of hell, and that when he died, hell would take him back. My Mom used to call me the devil, but as far as I could see, she’d married the devil. She got it all mixed up. Mother, you married the devil.
After she dropped me off, my little life as a boy who nobody could or would love began. At this time, I wasn’t even able to love this little boy. Plagued with insecurities and doubts about my self-worth, I was now going to have to make a home here in hell. I was left alone with all the bigger boys, who just stared at me like wolves salivating at their thoughts of feasting on a weak, vulnerable little lamb. I was the proverbial sheep being lead to the slaughter.
I was very alert and very scared. Very, very, very scared!
A woman took me into another room and showed me around. It technically wasn’t an orphanage, but there was very little difference between an orphanage and whatever this place was. Besides, what difference did it make? It was an imposing, overwhelming, cold, impersonal and institutional building. There was no love here. This was a place of pain and ghosts. We were throwaways or misfits. Possibly we were angels who nobody recognized as such, but that could hardly have occurred to us at the time. This was to be my new home while a new family was being prepared for me. I didn’t know who or what kind of people might invite me to share in their life. Or for that matter, if anybody would want me at all.
I remember thinking that my Mom would of course be coming back for me. I could care less about my stepfather, but I trusted that my mother’s love would override whatever other concerns she had. I felt a deep hatred for my stepfather. He had taken my Mom away from me. If she didn’t come back, I placed the blame squarely on his shoulders. I cried from loneliness and fear.
The older boys were antagonizing and threatening me, trying to push my limits. I got angry and taunted them back, so one of the boys pulled out a toothbrush with the end sharpened for use as a weapon. I ran for my life. I thought I was going to die. I knew what death was even at a young age. According to the county reports I had a kind of morbid fascination with death. Later that night, when it got dark, I grew even more frightened. It became obvious that if my mother was going to come back for me, it wouldn’t be any time soon.
We slept in what appeared to me like a giant classroom with a bunch of beds placed in it. It was some kind of enormous warehouse for storing kids. I remember hearing lots of crying in the middle of the night, puncturing through the silence. Other kids were missing their Moms and Dads, brother and sisters. Where were mine? I wondered why my brother and sister got to stay with our mother and I was stuck here in this sad, terrible place. Why was I rejected and deleted from the family? Was I special somehow, or was I just a piece of garbage? Why couldn’t I just be a normal kid like others? A kid who had a family? Why didn’t anyone love me? Why couldn’t I just be a kid?
Stabbed 28 times while watching her mother die!
I’m writing this message filled with so many intense emotions and complete humility. I simply have to share something that recently touched me to the core of my soul. It’s just a quick story that may change your perspective on your life.
I have been traveling this past week and have spoken to about 7000 young men and women. As a speaker, I enjoy the wonderful opportunity to meet many inspiring people. The other day I met an 18 year-old girl who will touch my life forever! She was so moved by my keynote speech and song “This Is My Life Story”” that it gave her the courage to come speak with me when the event was over. After waiting patiently in line for thirty minutes to meet me, she introduced herself with tears spilling down her face. It was such a raw display of emotion, I couldn’t help but cry with her.
This young lady ended up in foster care at sixteen years of age after her father fell into a fit of rage and went on a violent rampage. He stabbed and killed her mother right in front of her eyes. Horrible, yes, but it doesn’t end there. This father then attacked his own young daughter! He stabbed her twenty-eight times. She had humongous scars crisscrossing her neck, shoulders, and chest. Her father sliced her wrists so badly that the doctors who treated her said it looked like spaghetti. All the tendons and ligaments were torn to shreds. She was not expected to live, and spent over a year recovering. Three days after this terrible tragedy, her father sliced his own wrists and died. Her family is from Mexico and there was no one else to take care of her, so she ended up in foster care with her 3 year-old brother and 9 year-old sister.
We talked for a long time before we just held each other and cried. She says she is healing and has no hatred inside of her. It is unbelievable! What an inspiration! When I asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She told me she wants to go to college and become a nurse, having been inspired by the nurses who took such great care of her during the many months she was recovering from this horrific event. I gladly put her in contact with some people who may be able to provide her a full ride scholarship so that she can accomplish her dream. I want this girl to become an inspiration for others. She is my hero!!! Thanks to a great social worker, foster parents and Awesome Teachers, she is going places! She has a heart of gold and I know she will change so many lives for the better. God bless her!
I live in my own little world
but its ok, they know me here
I live in my own little world
because in the real one I’m full of fear
I live in my own little world full of doodles, stories, poems
anything that will keep me safe from the monsters under my bed
I live in my own little world that wont hurt me, at least in my head
My best friends are my make believe creatures that are featured
in my never ending struggle because in the end I’m the hero of the story
I live in my own little world because in this one I don’t have to say I’m sorry
I don’t have to be sorry for drifting off to a land where I’m not chastised or neglected
alienated or rejected
where my soul is not infected
in a world where I can put a band aid on my heart and stitch it up
because in the your world, everyone wrecked it
The ugly words that people use to describe me… keep me up at night as I look upon the mirror and I question what is wrong with me?
Yet I wonder if the other kids go through the same things when they get to their homes
because the painful bruises from these words they use are more painful then any physical ones they might inflict
So I’d rather have them use sticks and stones
So as I travel to my world I can imagine going back
So I travel to my world I will not miss the attacks
In my world I am the hero with super powers that make me forget the hours of my night filled tears, my super power keeps away the fears
that deflect the insults off my chest plate
like 45 caliber full metal jackets filled with hate
Cannot define what is mine and who I am and with my new found powers I will not have to wait for you to like me
I will not spend my nights staring at my pen or my razor blade wondering which one to pick up
because either one creates lines that hurt so deep that leave me wondering if it is time to
just give up
I wanna go back to my safe place where I don’t have to cover my face from the tyrants don’t know of the hell they’ve created because kids will be kids
so no one has a clue of the pain I’m in cuz I know that even they don’t care
so I’ll escape and I’ll go back to live in my own little world
but its ok
cuz they know me there
Mommy Didn’t Want Me and Daddy Didn’t Care
By Keeley Hart -14 years old
When you’re walking alone, when you’ve got nothing
and you say to yourself, you’ll never amount to something.
When your dreams are crushed and hope is long gone,
no matter which road you know, it’s all wrong,
But you smile, you fake,
you pretend that it’s ok because you never want anyone to know that you’re at stake,
But when you cry to yourself, when you’re alone at night
and these cuts on your wrist deflect what’s on your mind.
Because when mommy didn’t want you and daddy didn’t care,
when the pain of your rejection got to much for you to bear.
So you sabotage your life, then it happens again,
when the pain and hate get all inside your head
and she says she would always be here.
Mom where are you now, there pretending that you care,
at the slightest of a frown.
But it’s more than that, it’s more than this,
It’s supporting her addiction, mommy’s only wish,
and daddy, you could have spoke up, but you didn’t,
wish you would pretend to care for more than just a minute,
When what doesn’t kill you, makes you wish you were dead,
you’ll try to overcome it, but it won’t escape your head.
These emotional scars are deeper than anything that bleeds,
you cover up the wounds, it doesn’t mean they’ll ever leave,
but it’s ok, I mean I’ll turn around, You either rise up or sink into the ground.
Because I have a voice, I’ll speak for those who don’t,
I’ll prove that I can do it when push comes to shove.
When all you’re looking for is love, but love you can’t find,
but when you look for it, it’s all behind.
I know that you can do it, you’ll conquer the great,
you just got to keep going, it’s never too late.
You’re young, beautiful, brave and strong,
and no matter where you turn, you’re going to feel it’s wrong.
But you’re not, you’re great, standing tall and smart,
who you appear, are they really in your heart?
I know it’s not, I know it, at least more than anybody ever gave you credit for.
You’re standing, you’re ready, you’re coming up strong,
you’ve been traveling this road for a little too long.
Don’t give up, this is your life,
are you really going to end it with the presence of a knife?
You’ve got this, you own it, all you’ve got to do is show it.
Keep fighting, stay strong, even when it’s wrong,
it’s never the end, you can still re-write your song,
Stand tall, yes, I believe in you,
all you’ve got to do is believe in you too,
Yes, this is my story, own it and rewrite it,
sing it to yourself when you are alone at night,
I don’t care if you use my story, I really don’t mind,
as long as it helps you through your struggle and through your fight.
I met Diamond Carter aka d-banga when I was speaking at an Anti Violence Symposium in Stockton, California. She was so inspired by my message of hope, resilience and redemption that she came up to me afterwards with tears in her eyes saying how she was touched. She shared with me that she also had been in foster care and spent much of her time in group home and ran away a lot. She had a rough time on the streets and was in all kinds of trouble that one day she realized that she needed to make something of herself. Well she has! This is her poem/rap that she performed for me. She has some serious skills. I will never forget her and her tattoo’s that cover the top of each hand saying God’s Gift. She truly is and I am encouraged that she believes it. I hope you enjoy her poetic perspective.
Struggling Everyday to Live
By Diamond Carter
I grew up in this world that is just so cold
Now I’m going to sit back and tell you all a story that should of been told…
Strugglin everyday to live in any way
I was in the game trying to get to the fame
so everybody knew my name
Living in the straight up ghetto was hard
We didn’t have any checks or credit cards
Blocks getting shot up
People Getting locked up
Girls getting, What was I suppose to do?
Only If I knew.
I have seen things that I shouldn’t of seen
So violent, so cruel and just so mean
All the thoughts in my head
I thank God that I’m not dead
I was glad I had a bed
Never banged blue, never banged red
No matter what was said
Cops pepper sprayed people like bugs
The streets got me hooked on these drugs
People never caring, no love, no hugs
We was all just thugs
Kids had no hope, I was out selling dope
Families filled with sorrow and pain
Looking outside watching it all happen in the rain
Seeing every game and so I started to speak my slang
All because my partner died and every night I cried
Why on my birthday? Now it is just like a curse day
Striving to survive watching death arrive
I was internally dying
Pillowcase soaked and wet from crying
I am speaking the truth. I ain’t lying
I started hustling, forgot polite and started cussing
I was losing my mind.
It was hard trying to grind, not thinking where this would lead
I started smoking and selling weed
I thought my life would change if I left town
but I found out the hard way…
It wouldn’t change unless I decided to change my whole life around.
Pregnant At 13! (it’s not what you think)
I would like to share the story of another inspiring young person who attended a conference I spoke at two years ago. She recently sent me an email to let me know what’s going on in her life. Stories like hers are the reason I’m so energized when I get up in front of an audience to share my message of resilience and redemption.
When I first met her, she was seventeen years old and already had a four year-old daughter. After waiting thirty minutes in line to meet me after my keynote speech, she was already crying and ready to share her story. She slowly approached me and said through her tears, “I know I can be somebody because you are somebody.” It was clear she needed a hug, so I held her in my arms and asked, “What’s going on?” I knew the story I was about to hear would break my heart.
Gathering herself together, she told me how she’d grown up in a home torn apart by drugs. It was a crack house, a place where anybody could stop by to get high. Not only did her mother not protect her daughter, but actually started prostituting her out at twelve years old. After a year of this hell, the girl became pregnant at thirteen. She had no idea who the father was, except that it was one of her johns. Thankfully, a state worker caught wind of what was going on and she was taken from this home and placed in foster care. Despite the miserable circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, she decided to keep her baby.
I had the pleasure of meeting her foster parents and getting to thank them personally for rescuing this sweet girl and her daughter from such a horrible environment. As far as I’m concerned, these people are saints. Fostering one child is a huge responsibility, but taking in a child who herself has a child is really going above and beyond.
After we had discussed her past for a while, we began to discuss her future. “What is your dream job?” I asked her. “What do you want to be in life?” Without a moment’s hesitation, she told me she wanted to be a psychologist, having always been curious about how the human mind worked. I looked into her eyes and told her to never give up on that dream – NEVER! I told her to focus on where she was going instead of where she’d been, and to never lose direction in life. I told her to envision herself succeeding at her goal, and it would be the fire in her belly that kept her on the path.
Believe me, I was crying right along with her during our conversation. I’m the inspirational speaker, but with each event I perform at I am inspired in equal measure. To see a young girl rise above her terrible past and have the fire within to go after her dreams reminded me why I do this. I am very proud to report that she has just finished her first year of college. Good for her! She is well on her way to creating her own destiny and becoming everything she was meant to be. It would have been easy for her to quit, and use her terrible past as an excuse for failure: but she has persevered. When life knocked her down, she found the strength to get back up on her feet and keep fighting.
When life knocks you down, you can either be a trier or a crier. The way you respond to challenges determines the level of success you have in life. Our yesterdays do not have to define who we are today.
To share my message of hope, I use music in my keynotes and presentations. It’s a wonderful tool for opening the hearts of an audience. I have received thousands of comments saying my presentations are an experience like no other. I am not there to deliver a run-of-the-mill speech. I like to think of myself as a hybrid speaker, using music while sharing my life’s journey in order to help the spirit of the listener soar. It’s always amazing to know I’ve connected with another person on a very deep level.
I use music in my keynotes and presentations as a tool to open up the hearts of the audience. If you know of a conference planner or an organization that needs inspiration from Derek’s Training, please share www.IWillNeverGiveUp.com with them.
Never Give Up!
P.S. Are you aware of my inspiring youth program “System of Hope”? This program helps youth communicate their struggles and find solutions for success through a creative outlet that has helped me personally. Find out more at www.SystemofHope.com
What I Thought Was a Curse Turned Out To Be One of My Greatest Blessings.
I recently delivered the keynote for about 3000 wonderful people. Their last speaker was General Colin Powell so you know I had to step up my game and rock the house! Someone asked me if I had forgiven my mom for abandoning me. The answer is yes … although I do not have a relationship with her. I was able to forgive my mother when I consciously and spiritually chose to do so by releasing all of my bitterness, anger and resentment that I had towards her. It also helped that I had created my own family which brought significance to my life. If you have not had the chance to see my presentation “live”, please take a moment and watch as this video is a good substitute. Please feel free to share this YouTube video with others that you feel need to be inspired. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqb2298gS70
My recent birthday thoughts…..
As a motivational speaker, I am out on the road quite a bit. This year I celebrated my birthday while on the speaking circuit. Once again I did not receive a call from my bio mom … but I did receive a call from beautiful wife, children, my in-laws and my foster mom and dad (whom I consider my mom and dad) They sang happy birthday in their off pitch voices and we had a good laugh. It was a great feeling knowing that I had not been forgotten. I took some time to reflect upon my birth and the crazy life that I have lived. A part of me cannot help but think that my mother must live with a ton of guilt knowing that she gave me up and kept my brother and sister.
Although I will always have the memory of when my mother abandoned me, I want to let you know that I am now healed. I am a stronger person because of it. It was a very difficult time in my life. Here I was, a child desperate for love and affection, a scared little boy who was getting ready for what would be the longest ride of his life. I can’t say I remember the drive to the orphanage, or the place where kids were stored, but I do remember not bringing along any toys. I remember the sun being out and the sky being blue. The day was pleasant, warm, and peaceful, in stark contrast to the foreboding anxieties that were raging inside me. I didn’t know where I was being taken, only that this day would likely be the darkest of my life. The “longest ride” eventually ended at a place I considered an orphanage. It was a big building with lots of space and rooms. I figured it was an orphanage because all I saw were homeless and unloved kids. Kids who were no longer wanted by their Moms and Dads. I could see the sadness and fear in their eyes, and imagined that same fear must be showing in mine. We were now disposable, kids who could be thrown away or tossed overboard, never to be loved or comforted by our parents again.
Seriously, who would have cared if we were drowned or burned to death? At this point, it was already like we were being buried alive. We were being killed, suffocated, by lack of love. We were now the county’s worry, pain and nightmare. My parents had given up! They were weak, and now I had to somehow become strong and survive.
I was the son, paying the price for all of her bad choices. She could have at least said, “Well, take care Derek, I love you.” Or how about just a few basic words of tenderness and encouragement? “You will make it through this Derek.” Even something negative, critical, or hurtful would have been better than nothing: “I blame you for all of this,” or “Derek, I hate you for what you have become,” or “Derek, you forced me to do this, I blame you!” But NO, nothing was said, and the indifferent silence was more painful than any words could have been, no matter how angry or loveless.
I guess it wasn’t like she was wishing me well as I went off to college. I’m sure she quickly got rid of me in order to avoid the emotional impact of her actions, of seeing herself throwing away her own blood, her selfish desire to choose her husband over me, her son. But as her blood son, I probably reminded her of past mistakes, of the regretful choice she made to start a romantic relationship with my biological father.
After she dropped me off, my little life as a boy who nobody could or would love began. At this time, I wasn’t even able to love this little boy. Plagued with insecurities and doubts about my self-worth, I was now going to have to make a home here in hell. I was left alone with all the bigger boys, who just stared at me like wolves salivating at their thoughts of feasting on a weak, vulnerable little lamb. I was the proverbial sheep being lead to the slaughter. I remember thinking that my Mom would of course be coming back for me. I could care less about my stepfather, but I trusted that my mother’s love would override whatever other concerns she had. cried from loneliness and fear.
We slept in what appeared to me like a giant classroom with a bunch of beds placed in it. It was some kind of enormous warehouse for storing kids. I remember hearing lots of crying in the middle of the night, puncturing through the silence. Other kids were missing their moms and dads, brother and sisters. Where were mine? I wondered why my brother and sister got to stay with our mother and I was stuck here in this sad, terrible place. Why was I rejected and deleted from the family? Why was I thrown away like a piece of garbage? Why couldn’t I just be a normal kid that had a family? Why didn’t anyone love me?
I learned at an early age that I was not going to be paralyzed by a pitiful past. I learned that I could take responsibility for the direction of my life and not let my parents mistakes define my life. I have the chance to define my own life and break the cycle. What I thought was a curse in my life became one of my greatest blessings. I now live a very blessed life with my smart and beautiful wife of 17 years and my awesome 4 children. I am truly blessed!
If you know of anyone planning a conference or training seminar, please share my information with them. A Big Thank You to the several individuals who have already contacted me regarding speaking at your events. I appreciate it and look forward to meeting you!
Never Give Up!
Derek Clark, Motivational Speaker, Author and Singer/Songwriter
P.S. I have a brand new website that you are going to love. Please take a moment and visit www.FosterCareSuccess.com