Darlene lived cross the hall from me our freshman year in college. From the very beginning, she and I were very different from one another.
She is tall, I am not.
She had curly hair, I did not.
She was in a sorority, I was not.
Her room was beautifully decorated with coordinated floral prints, mine was not.
And Darlene was usually very graceful, proper, and dignified.
And I was… not.
Despite our differences, though, we became fast friends. We would study together, eat together, and when I wanted to break curfew and go to the beach at midnight, DarDar was my accomplice.
One thing we had in common, though, is that we were both night owls. Some of my fondest memories of that time in college are the early, early mornings, sitting in the hall with Darlene, talking.
We would talk in detail about what we wanted our lives to look like when we got older, and in even greater detail about what we didn’t want our lives to look like.
We were passionate and idealistic.
And had no idea what reality would bring.
You see, in all of our conversations of what we wanted for our lives, never once did Darlene say that she wanted to eventually be a single mother to two boys with autism.
Yet here she is.
The verse that makes me think about Darlene is Proverbs 31:17:
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
I will never forget the way that Darlene let the general public know about her divorce. She posted a Facebook status about completing a small home-improvement task, stating that she had reached a major milestone for a single mom.
And that was it.
A strong, bold statement that although she had not chosen this for her life, it is what her life became, and she would handle it with her usual grace, dignity, and courage.
She vigorously works for her family, and her arms – and will – are strong for her tasks.
She is there for her children – loving them, serving them, helping them, and fighting for them. Tirelessly, fiercely, and without recognition.
She is keenly aware of educational policy and advocates on behalf of those who cannot advocate for themselves.
She volunteers her time to help the outcast and overlooked, and she is a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Oh, and on top of all of that, she is also a classroom teacher, faithfully serving the students in her care.
Darlene is truly a woman of noble character, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for all that she is.
She inspires me to learn more, to serve more, and to love more.
I am so honored to call her my friend.
See you soon.