I’ve decided to start running some posts honoring strong women who inspire me. Women who I think truly matter and make this world a better place. We all would like to know when our lives have impacted the lives of the people around us, but most of us never get to hear about that. I think we should. I hope that these women know how much they truly matter and I hope that by sharing them with you, your life can be inspired by them too.
In trying to decide who would be the first woman in the ‘Women Who Matter’ series, I ran through several names. Of course my first thought was my mother, the best person I have ever met. Other contenders were my best friend, my favorite politician, my favorite feminist, my favorite… well, you get the idea. I finally decided on Lisa Ritter. Who is Lisa Ritter? Well let me tell you….
Lisa Ritter, who I knew as Lisa Miller growing up, is one of the strongest women I have ever met. I like to think of myself as a pretty strong chick, but to see Lisa endure all life has thrown at her, and to do it with such grace and positivity… wow. Lisa is a devoted wife and mother of three beautiful girls. In a life that seems to revolve around her family non stop, she still finds time to be one of the most creative people I have ever met. The clothes, the bows… it’s all adorable! Between the crafting, the kids, the husband, and all of her children’s busy life activities… I don’t know when she finds time to sleep! Just going to the grocery store makes me exhausted and hostile. Yet I have never seen Lisa show an ounce of negativity. This is even more amazing when you know the full story. Lisa’s daughter Emma was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was 18 months old. That was 7 years ago. The time since has been a nightmare of terrifying-to-any-mother illnesses, road trip rallies to numerous doctors and hospitals, championing for the CF cause, and still being an awesome mother, wife & friend to everyone around her. If there ever was a real life Super Woman, it would be Lisa.
As if all that wasn’t enough of a reason to love this girl, I have another one. I doubt Lisa will even remember this, but I certainly do. Almost 20 years ago… yes, I am going back that far, I was going through a very difficult time. I was dealing with something that I have rarely ever discussed with anyone, and because I don’t want this article to turn into a total downer, I am not going to discuss the issue. Let’s just sum it up to say that it was a very hard time in my life and I had started to alienate myself from everyone around me. I was slowly withdrawing from life, and seriously contemplating suicide. I didn’t really feel like I could connect with anyone, or that anyone could truly understand what I was going through, much less would even honestly care, aside from the customarily required social responses. In fairness, most of the people I was close to during that time, and that is a very short list mind you, were all dealing with major problems of their own. That however is not something that really registers in the mind of a teenage girl dealing with a major trauma. It is very hard to see past your own problems and pain at that time in life. I was never very good at letting people into my life. I was the queen of walls, because that was the only way I could keep from surrendering to the overwhelming pain I was going through. So there I was, young, hurt, alone and trying to manage a pain that no one should ever have to live through.
I had known Lisa for about a year or two at the time, but more in an acquaintance way. We had never really spent any time alone together and gotten to know each other. She was a few years older than I, so this wasn’t really a surprise. Why would someone so pretty and cool and popular and older have any interest in me? So you can imagine my surprise when one day Lisa called me and invited me out for pizza, just the two of us. Even as a traumatized teenager preoccupied with hiding from the world, when the popular college girl invites you out for pizza, you don’t say no! So there we were, on a Saturday afternoon, sitting and talking over a pizza. I have never told Lisa how much this day impacted my life, and I have no excuse for that. There is no reason it should have taken me 20 years to do it. The fact that this girl had shown an interest in me at all when she had no reason to was a huge shock to me. The positivity she radiated was so magnetic, that you couldn’t help but to want to be near her. Her kindness and genuine concern for me and my life…. it was the first time in months that I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I could talk to someone who actually gave a damn. I don’t know what made her decide to pick me up that day, or if she had some instinct about what I was going through, but it was a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t open up to Lisa completely about what I was going through, and I didn’t tell her about what had happened to me, but I was more open with her that day than I had been with anyone in a long time. Just that moment of connection, of sharing.. of feeling like someone cared when they didn’t have to. It got to me. You never know how much the little moments and the little actions of kindness can impact the people around you. You never really know what someone is going through. Aside from just providing an emotional boost that I desperately needed at this time in my life, Lisa influenced how I would interact with other people for the rest of my life. I have learned to not be so quick to judge, and to take notice of the people around me and their lives. I never assume that people are ok. I always hope that they are, but just incase.. I try to be patient with people and to offer kind words when possible. I take time to listen, and make time to be there. All this because of one saturday afternoon over pizza. All this because of Lisa Ritter. It’s taken 20 years too long to say it, but thank you Lisa. You matter.
For more information on Cystic Fibrosis and Emma’s battle, please visit the “Emma’s Army” facebook page.