Legs, Part 2 – A Community of Hope
December 2023, Island Voices

Legs, Part 2 – A Community of Hope

By Deborah H. Anderson

This time of year, when the temperature dips below 40 degrees, I think about my blue flannel cow jammies. Along with my blue socks and a black fake sheep’s wool blanket I bought at Thriftway, they kept me warm when it got really cold during the year that I slept in my car in order to get a book out. 

Faced with seemingly impossible opposition to the goodness and kindness I wanted to plant in the world, and the realization I had thrown over $300,000 down the drain in rentals, I summoned the entrepreneurial spirits of my two grandfathers and beloved stepfather and devised a plan to make my money work for me and get my first book to print. I threw everything in storage, rented a secure office with 24/7 keycard access, and went to work. 

Work it did! By April of that year, I, along with the illustrator, was doing a book release.

That was before hip replacement number one. Now, two weeks after hip replacement number two, I write this on my phone, from bed, with a transfer belt wrapped around my left toe in case I need to move suddenly – the better to marionette my healing left leg into action. 

I created quite the sensation in 2014-2015 when I did van life before van life was a thing. But most people don’t know the Cinderella ending to my story. The top crossover agent in the United States saw my book, “Kneeling at the Cross: A Protestant Looks at the Crucifixion,” a book of poetry with illustrations by Will Forrester, and picked me up for my first five books. It doesn’t get better than that. The first book, the one written while I paid $650 a month rent to sleep in my car, is part of a memoir trilogy. 

Working on the second book, I made the comment to my agent one time that I was waiting for my happy ending. He famously replied, “Nobody gives a rip about your happy ending. They want to know how you stayed standing!”

That became the operative question for years. How did I stay standing?

My faith, God, opportunities of learning and service. I have post-traumatic resiliency and growth. That’s beyond PTSD. More people in the U.S. – 67% – have this than PTSD. Its hallmarks are determination, courage, creativity, and perseverance. But I added one more pillar, “communities of hope.” I gathered around me and invited into my life people that had hope that my present was not my future. 

I had my faith community, my writing community, my disability community, my music community, my gang ‘o five brothers from my other Mother’s community (professionals at the top of their games, who believed in my work and my leadership skills), and my historical community (who knew my journey). Communities of hope filled and surrounded me. 

My faith communities held me in prayer and invited me into opportunities for service and leadership. My writing community gave valuable feedback and endorsement for words I was writing, and words I had already written. One particular colleague would ask, “Are you writing?” every time he saw me, even before he said “Hello.” 

My historical community would initiate conversations centered on times they had seen me hang tough, and described those actions as character strengths. My disability community reminded me to advocate for myself medically, and to make good health a priority in the midst of it all. 

Some invited me to fun activities, paid for retreats that would be uplifting, told me of work opportunities, gathered me into social events, made me be visible, told me to stand tall and use my voice, and again and again offered financial saves and help with endless moving. One friend announced she had stopped coloring her hair professionally and wanted to give that money towards my utilities. Huge things, small things. They would not let me quit or lie, die, and surrender. 

My fortune changed this past year, and what a joy to reach back and pay it forward to those who now need what I once needed. Compassion is the hallmark of community. 

You can choose what kind of community surrounds you. Do they encourage health or toxicity? Vision or familiarity? Hope or stasis?

Moving forward with hope feels so good, so life-giving. Within weeks, months, I will be standing and walking unassisted by devices. My communities of hope, however, will remain forever.

December 8, 2023

About Author

deborah Deborah Anderson returns to write the occasional column for The Loop after a hiatus following twelve years writing “Positively Speaking.” She is currently working on several writing projects including her memoir called “An Irregular Life” and a novel “One Dog, Two Cats, Three Chances” about a widow who moves from the city with her children to a small rural Island in the Delaware River. She loves children, animals, music, books, and adventure. She is a woman of faith. She believes no matter what, love remains.