By Susan Wysocki
When asked to write this column about the Power of One, my immediate thought was to write about heroes of mine who would be recognizable to everyone. Rosa Parks comes to mind. Former Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, a personal friend and colleague of mine, is another. She stood up for adolescents’ sexual health, only to be fired by the President of the United States. I don’t know too many people who would stand by their convictions and risk being fired, let alone by the President.
But the more I thought about it, the more I recognized that the Power of One is about each and every one of us. What we do in our everyday lives affects so many others. Are ever really aware of how our actions ripple beyond us? I also thought about how every day people have affected my life, and not just in heroic ways.
My father, the son of Polish immigrants and the oldest of three younger brothers and a sister, never got the chance to complete high school. During the depression he had to work to keep the family afloat. He earned enough so that he could buy his own grocery store. He worked very hard. We had our own house. He sent me to college. I never wanted for anything.
He wasn’t, however, the nicest man to have has a father. He had a mean temper—a scary, violent temper. He scared us all. My mom, who I got to love and appreciate so much more after his death at 88, always thought she could control his anger by doing what she thought he wanted. We were told to hide from him the new toys that she bought us. “Don’t rock the boat,” she would say. When I became a pretty teenager in the 1960’s, my father started noticing boys’ attentiveness toward me. His way of dealing with it was to tell me I looked like a tramp in my mini skirt. That’s not what a young woman wants to hear. He once belted me for coming home from a drive-in later than I said I would. For years, I could not reconcile or understand his behavior. It hurt. With time, I have come to realize he did his best, as hard hearted as it was. Most likely he was trying to protect me the only way he knew. He did love me.
His sister, my Aunt, on the other hand, was one of the most gentle, generous people I have ever known. Because she did not have children, she would take my brother and me to her place on a lake every summer weekend without my parents—who of course—had to work in the store. She was fun and had unconditional love for us. She was the only one who, when my father was in a snit, could quietly say his name and stop whatever angry thing he was into at the moment. My hero.
So where does this all come down to tribute and the Power of One? Both my Dad and my Aunt had a powerful impact in my life. They were my personal Power of One. I could not give one of them tribute without the other.
My father gave me an entrepreneurial spirit because he owned his own business. Plus, I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. I wanted to lead, and not have to rely on someone else. He also gave me an idea of what I did not want to be. I am more compassionate to others as a result of his actions toward me. I became a leader in women’s health to advocate for women. My Aunt gave me the experience of unconditional love, and taught me the importance of fun and the love of children who are not my own. My friends call me the child whisperer.
We are all Powers of One. It is how we choose to exercise that power that determines whether we have earned tribute for our compassion, or for what others do not want to be. It’s your choice.
Image credit: thepurplepinecone.com
About Susan Wysocki
iWoman's Health, which will be launched in the near future, will bring insight, information and interconnections between experts, clinicians, and women. As an invited expert to countless advisory board on women's health issues, Susan Wysocki has worked with the world's top experts in women's health. She is also continuing as the Editor in Chief of Women's Health Care: A practical journal for nurse practitioners. She carries over 25 years of experience in women's health advocacy, networking, writing for publications, and speaking to audiences large and small. Susan also has done many TV media tours, radio tours, and has spent a significant amount of time working with the print media. She is now taking those skills to create an even bigger impact on the health and well being of women. As the former President and CEO of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners (NPWH) for 25 years, Susan knows what it means to take a little-known organization with no staff, no budget, and her home phone number as the contact, to a nationally recognized organization with its own building on Capitol Hill.