My Friend Betty

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You are not bad. You are just bent. You don’t need to be judged or punished. You need to be healed, to be set free.

Because you are bent, you will miss the mark. What feels straight to you will be crooked. Your self image is distorted.

But that doesn’t mean you’re evil, just bent. You didn’t bend yourself. The power that distorts you is not your own. 

Nor is the power that heals you. What you have to do is open yourself to the grace that lets you re-align, the love that raises you up, not once, but with every breath. 

Fear will bend you down. Love will raise you up. Keep choosing love. The gentle hand is on your back even now.

~ Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Thanks to my friend, Marilyn, for sharing the poem above.

Do you ever feel just a little bent? Here’s a story about when I did.

I met Betty Pesek while working for a nonprofit in Chicago. Betty lived in a wealthy north shore suburb and possessed a graceful, quiet demeanor that shrouded a steely temperament and a deep resolve to make a difference with her life. She may have looked the part of a country club matron but inside she possessed the spirit of Jane Addams.

In 1974 Betty and I were on the same work team which regularly met early in the mornings.

At the time I was going through a painful divorce. My life had been thrown into chaos. I couldn’t get reconciled to my marriage being broken into a thousand pieces. I was only 25.

I didn’t just feel a little bent — I felt a lot broken.

My therapy was to drink heavily. During this time I switched from beer to bourbon and was consuming a quart a day. One night I returned to my barren apartment and said to myself, “I’m done with this mausoleum.” I headed for the bar, went on a bender and didn’t return for a week.

Drinking at night became a habit. Often I’d be getting in to work from an all-nighter just as Betty was arriving for our early morning meeting.

She never once lectured me on my errant ways. She just offered me a cup of coffee and asked how I was holding up. She, of course, knew that I wasn’t holding up. But the mere fact she asked me meant the world to me — because she was the only one who did.

It was over these coffee chats that Betty ministered to my broken soul and planted seeds of recovery in me.

  • I wasn’t really broken, just a little bent.
  • My wounds would eventually heal.
  • Life hadn’t abandoned me, but maybe I’d abandoned life.

It was in these predawn chats  — when I was at rock bottom — that Betty provided me a master class in friendship.

I spent the latter part of that August in Washington DC, about the time Nixon resigned. I remember dreading the thought of returning home to my empty apartment. My plan was to just drop off my bags and immediately head for the bar. But when I opened the door — Bam! — I found my apartment had been completely redecorated.

  • new furniture,
  • new decor,
  • new paint,
  • new everything.

Betty had completely transformed my a hovel into a home. It positively took my breath away. I felt as if my whole life had been redecorated and it paved the way for me to move on. Her kind and gentle hand gave me tools I’d later use in my 12-Step work.

Sometimes to be a friend it takes more than just a few kind words, but ACTUALLY lending a hand.

If a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do; think up something appropriate, and do it.” ~ E. W. Howe

Betty did for me what I couldn’t/wouldn’t do for myself. It was a moment that’s been etched in my soul for 50 years, and in March of 2015 I had the honor of sharing the story at Betty’s funeral.

Just a thought…


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