In every life there is a turning point, and every person has impacts on others around them. “There’s always a ripple effect. If you’re doing good, you’ve got positive energy and you’re happy and you’ve got a great outlook on life, that ripple effect is going to go towards everybody else that’s around you,” says Wanda.
She has seen the ripples in her life, and speaks strongly about how she believes in this potential for positive impact on others, but she also knows that currents can go the other way.
For Wanda, her early life was swamped in a tide of misunderstanding and of pain. Abused from an early age, she became caught in a vortex of hurt and, as time went on, was pulled into a cycle of negative experiences and abusive relationships. Her two older children were taken from her care as she faced threatening and abusive relationships with their fathers, and negative waves spread. One partner tried to throw her out of a 7th floor window. In self defense she stabbed him, and she ended up being put in in jail. In her own words, her life was destroyed.
Finally, she moved from the east coast to Western Canada where she had been born, seeking some kind of hope, and eventually she moved to Vancouver Island, but the impacts of her negative experiences and past continued to corrode her present, and made her angry. Misunderstood, others around her pushed back against her anger, and reflected their own.
A crisis came when she was kicked out of her apartment. “There were a few people in the complex that didn’t like me at all. I am a very, very blunt, brutal honest person. I tell it like it is. If you don’t like it, that ain’t my problem.” But it did become her problem when some of those people conspired to falsely accuse her of racism and succeeded in having her removed from the complex.
Bewildered and hurt from the accusations, she reached out to her aunt, who had been staying at the ICCS Samaritan house program, and – almost against her will – Wanda joined her there. But the corrosive effects of her negative experiences continued to drag her under and made her bitter. When people were nasty to her, she fought back, and the ripples of anger grew.
The final blow came when her former boyfriend – a man who her youngest daughter had called “Daddy” from her earliest years – stalked her to Samaritan House and, finally catching her alone, sprayed her in the face with bear mace. The tide swamped her and she had a mental and emotional breakdown. It was only thanks to caring staff at Samaritan House that she made it through.
This crisis had another effect though – it stopped the negative momentum. When she reached out for help, and that help was given, slowly but inexorably the waters stilled, and the ripples started, ever so slowly, to move in the other direction. Bit by bit, Wanda realized that she didn’t have to continue drowning in negativity. Instead she realized that she could choose to move from darkness to light.
Even more she saw that the people around her really understood. They were “willing to step out of their comfort zone to help” – they didn’t give up on her. Some had been through things just like she had, and had chosen a positive path
And so, slowly, she too chose to pause and then move in a different direction.
Now she feels great, and she has hope for the future once again. Her motto now is never give up. She is on a list to move into independent housing where her youngest daughter will be able to move back home with her. She is hoping to go back to school to complete her high school diploma, and then to start a baking business out of her new home.
Ultimately, despite her hard road, Wanda is determined to move forward, to learn and to grow from all she has been through.
“People become a part of your life and walk out of your life for a reason. Everything has a reason behind it whether its for the good or for the bad, but it still happens for a reason. It’s your choice what you do with it and how you move on from it.”
“It just so happens I’m one of those people that move to the flower road, and turn every negative into a positive instead of going down the pathway that’s nothing but darkness and ashes, and turning everything into a negative and dwelling on it and dwelling on the past and letting everything stop me from doing what I want to do because of the life I had. That’s not who I am. The life that I have is just making me a stronger woman in the end and it just lights my fire to do better and to help other people around me to do better. So, if I can make that one change in somebody’s life, my job’s done. I did something good.”