The rest of my childhood was just as eventful. Time and time again, major pivots directed me to where I sat this past Independence Day contemplating the meaning of freedom, sacrifice, service and gratitude. I am grateful to those that fought for this great country because despite any flaws, we have so much and I try not to take that for granted. I also honored those who sacrificed along the way to give me purpose, opportunity, knowledge, strength, courage, compassion and a moral compass by which to lead my life. Mostly, I honored the women in my life and prayed to be as strong as them.

My grandmother Sofia, who died on this day. From the stories my mother has told me, she was a quirky, but amazing woman who was well respected and loved.

Mary Catherine on her 90th birthday.

My grandmother Mary Catherine, who embraced me since I was 6 years old, the moment I walked through her door, and loved me like only my own mother could. She taught me integrity, confidence, courage, leadership and above all, she nurtured my faith and blessed me with her amazing grace. She passed away a couple months ago at 91 years old and I miss her so much.

My mother Christina, who lost her mother too young and grieves still to this day. She is the strongest woman I know and the one who sacrificed all for me. She gave me a role model worth living up to with her dedicated work ethic and unending generosity. She simply does not know how to be selfish.

I have a lot to live up to, a lot to prove and a lot to give back. How can I not give back when at every turn in my life, someone else has given so generously and selflessly to me? It takes a village to raise a child and my eyes are open to just how much it took to get me here. I am a child of the world and as any child does, I grew up. It’s my turn to nurture the children of the future, not just my own daughters, but a larger village of children, so they will grow strong with hope and compassion to do the same.

Kewatia Compassion School in IndiaWhile I was in India, I had the privilege of speaking to about 300 orphans at the Kewatiya Compassion school in rural Katihar. I said very little because I was humbled to be with them and found myself in tears. I said, “I was just like you. A good group of people like Compassion saved my life. My path in life was not a mistake. It brought me to here so you would know that God has a plan for you.” I wish I would have also said “You are important” because they are and they need to hear that. I hope they never feel forgotten and when they feel lost I hope they have their own village of supporters to guide them through life.

I’m not really looking to “change” people or “save the world.” Not everyone needs saving and that approach can appear unintentionally like an arrogant perspective. I’ve met people living in poverty who are happier and richer than those I’ve known with mansions. I’m aiming to do what is right and the life that is most changed is mine.

The one who is saved in all of this, is me.

Our story shapes us. This is why I work so hard. This is why I do what I do and pour my heart, my soul, my everything into these great cause projects. This is also why my family forgives me, supports me, and accepts me as I am.

I have much to be grateful for, and I am so fortunate. I have a healthy, happy home full of love, laughter and infinite understanding. I could not be more blessed.

And thus, this story begins and ends in the middle because this is certainly not the end. I’ve learned so much on my journey and I know that I still have an abundance to give. I have plenty of dreaming yet to do, and for every person I impact positively, I am forever changed.

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