My One Precious Life

Flipping through my ninth-grade classbook, one photo in particular surprised me. It was the Future Teachers Club, and I was in it. Me? A future teacher? Joining this club must have been something my counselor suggested, because I never would have thought of myself as a teacher.

I never thought of myself as much of anything.

Even before I started kindergarten, I had already internalized the message, don’t dream. By the age of five I knew dreams might be okay for other people, but not for me. My life would unfold by happenstance, not by intention. Whatever happened, happened. As Doris Day sang, Que sera, sera.

What would I be when I grew up? Who knew? I didn’t dare dream of it. A teacher? Certainly not. That required college, and I was not allowed to go to college.

To say that my expectations were low is an overstatement. My only expectations were that bad things would happen to me. Hopes, dreams and plans would all be dashed, so what was the point of even having them?

Statistically, I was doomed to fail.

I grew up in a house with no books, and my parents were not involved in my public school education. They never attended parent teacher conferences or showed any interest in my education. What chance did I have?

Looking back at school pictures and recalling my limited vision for myself reminds me that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). Where I did not dare to dream, God seemed to dream for me.

Because here I am in my sixties, with not one but two college degrees, and a life full of memories beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

College opened up international travel to me, and I was fortunate to go to Spain for summer school and then spring break trips to Ireland and Mexico.

I did teach for one year, and then I went to work in the nonprofit world.

It took me a few years after college to trust that I could plan a trip on my own and believe it would actually happen, but once my first real vacation occurred—a Windjammer cruise off the coast of Maine—my confidence grew.

Through work and travel with friends, I have been to able to see so much of the world.

Many times, when I have found myself in Europe or Africa or South America, I would ask myself, “Who would have thought that a poor girl from the east side of Detroit would…?”

“God,” is the answer. It was God who had a vision for me and God who gave me the grace and courage to say “yes” to the opportunities presented to me.
Throughout my life, opportunities beyond my imagination presented themselves, and I only had to say “yes.”

And the funny thing is that I believe the best is yet to come. I am still curious about the world and want to explore more of Europe. Amsterdam, northern Italy and southern France are places I have never seen, and I want to return to some favorites—England and Poland among them.

I find this stage of life exciting for the possibilities it holds, even as I face the reality that I have lived more of my life than I have left to live. While I draw breath, I plan to live as fully and deeply as possible, to make the most of the life God has given me.

TLH photoMadeline Bialecki grew up in Detroit and recently returned after living in Philadelphia for twenty-eight years. She began writing about her spiritual journey and faith life after the death of her best friend in 2012. She likes to read, knit, bake and garden. She shares her spiritual journey here.