I hate to admit it: I’m a recovering male chauvinist. When throwing down shooters and smoking cigars with the boys I have momentary relapses, but “I is what I is and I ain’t what I ain’t.”
My proclivity toward chauvinism came to a pinnacle in 1970. Maybe by making this confession, I’ll be a better person. That’s reaching, I know.
The officer of the day was a woman. I walked right past her.
The captain of the ship could not take a joke, especially after my Marines threw the ice cream machine overboard.
Eventually, an angel would show me the light. I would undergo a Herculean challenge by navigating a series of serendipitous events. I would have two daughters, I would become a Girl Scout leader, and I would meet Christie Frandsen.
I am captivated by the remarkable and compelled to write about remarkable people. Let me tell you about Christie Frandsen, whom many locals know because she has been very active in the local Scouting program for many years now.
Christie’s father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She lived an isolated life on Indian reservations in Montana, North Dakota, Nevada and Arizona. Her only friends were books, so she turned inward, struggling for acceptance, esteem and fighting the demons of social isolation. Christie never saw the outside world. She explained, “I became ‘old school’ and believed in the ancient values of the elders whose wisdom is foundational to life.”
She went to school with Native American children whose education was regressive. “So I got the idea that I was smart; academics came easy to me,” she said.
Christie had a severe speech impediment; she was a stutterer. The impact of stuttering was debilitating, causing fear, anxiety, shame, stress and isolation. “It made me tough,” she said. “But it also broke my heart. Communication is life. I had so many things to say, and I couldn’t say them.”
I hold to a philosophy that the precipitous nature of life defines who we are. Christie had a challenging youth but became a powerful woman. As an adult, she lost two young children and struggled to be happy.
“The best way to overcome grief is to find someone to help,” she said. “The crucibles of life harden you, and sometimes rocks turns into diamonds.”
She took these tragedies and in conjunction with her faith developed a sense of altruism and selflessness. She quoted John 13: 34-35, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
Here is a woman who walks the walk. “You can’t be too selfish living in a large family,” she said.
I asked her how she became so involved in Scouting.
“At a meeting they asked for volunteers. I raised my hand wondering, will they choose me? As a little girl I was never chosen, never picked for anything. I felt honored to be picked,” she said. “Someone actually chose me.”
Christie uses Scouting to strengthen the community and empower girls. “As a child I stuttered. I didn’t feel powerful, so I wanted to empower and build values in girls,” she said. “You save a boy, you save an individual. You save a girl, you save a generation.”
Let me end with this story. Saint Anthony said, “Sometimes I encounter devils looking like angels. Sometimes I find angels looking like devils.” When asked how he could tell the difference, he said, “You can tell by the way you feel after they leave your company.”
Christie left, and I felt blessed!
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at doctorjoe.us.