Bully to Buddy
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful…” Proverbs 15:13
Love may not be all a person needs, but the selfless love that OBHC staff and residents have shown eighteen-year-old Linda has certainly gone a long way in helping her heal, build self-esteem, and form healthy, lasting friendships.
Linda came to live at OBHC in March of 2013. “I needed a safe place to live,” she begins. “I didn’t get along with my parents. We didn’t have much of a relationship, but now I have more relationships than I ever even thought I needed…more than I could ever need.”
“I remember when I first got here,” Linda continues with a self-deprecating chuckle. “A girl named Kassidy showed me kindness. She gave me a lollipop! A lollipop! I was like, ‘really?’ I didn’t respond well. I was rude. Actually, I was kind of a brat to her for a while, but she kept on loving me anyway. Finally, Mr. Marple, the campus assistant administrator, told me to love her back. I did, and now we are best buds, like sisters, really, and I go to her for everything, all because she loved me when I was hurting. That’s how everyone is here, and that’s why they are my family.” Linda pauses. “I’ll always feel that way about them, no matter what, because that’s how they love me, unconditionally.”
Although Linda feels a connection with every individual on campus, her appreciation for her houseparents, Mr. and Mrs. Swinney, runs especially deep.
“I like how they are really straight-forward with me,” says Linda, “and how they listen. They are really wise and being with them just makes me feel happy, joyful. They do a good job of making me feel important, like I was meant to be here, and that helps my self-esteem. With them, I feel welcome, wanted and comfortable. They’ve made this home for me.”
Linda accepted Christ after coming to live at OBHC, and the Swinneys have helped her to grow in her faith and apply biblical principles to the relationships in her life.
“Back when I lived at home, I was bullied,” says Linda with a frown. “Wait. Correction. I was a bully, and I got bullied. It was miserable. Then, there was a time after I came here that I wasn’t getting along with people again. I didn’t want to feel hatred toward them. My houseparents helped me see that, with Jesus, you can conquer the evil stuff and be close to people. I let God work things out. Now, I can actually see myself having a healthy relationship with someone in the future, having children, living a happy life. Before coming here, that didn’t seem possible. I couldn’t imagine it, but now I want a family so I can be with my own kids how my campus family has been with me.”
Now that she’s found a place to belong and be happy, Linda is in no hurry to leave. She plans to spend her senior year of high school doing the things that she loves with the support and encouragement of the OBHC family she’s come to depend on.
“I do band,” Linda says. “I’ve played the clarinet since the fourth grade. I also do color guard, and I do Speechless, it’s a sign language group here on campus. We do sign language to Christian music. I love it! One time, I did a solo thing, and all the people stood up at the end. It was really cool! I almost cried.” Linda scrunches her shoulders and smiles, still moved by the memory.
“I do Ag, too,” Linda continues. “I work with pigs because they are the easiest. When you show them, you just tap their head and they do what you want them to do. No training really. I’ve done sheep and goats before, and they are harder. One time, I even had a steer. His name was George. I loved George! We eat our pigs and steers here even if they make the sale. George made the sale, and I think I ate him.” Able to find the humor in almost any situation, Linda giggles and shrugs. “I guess it could have been someone else. That’s what I like to think anyway!”
Following high school graduation, Linda hopes to participate in OBHC’s Independent Living program while she attends college at Southeastern University.
“I want to major in music education and become a band director,” Linda says. “If I live here, I don’t have to pay rent, and I’ll be by family. I will have to pay for groceries, but I think I can do that. I can’t really cook very well, so it shouldn’t be that expensive, right? Just sandwiches and cereal.” Laughing, Linda adds, “And veggies! I can chop things. That’s easy enough.”
To the OBHC donors who have made her present peaceful and her future bright, Linda offers her heartfelt thanks. “I don’t know where I’d be right now if it weren’t for you…don’t even want to think about it! Just thank you for loving me.”