I was scared when I left the job that I loved.
For 36 years, I arrived every day at a place I couldn’t wait to get to. I didn’t take vacations because it never felt like work, my job was my life, my fun times and my love. On arrival, I would be greeted by a chorus of voices, some of the most amazingly optimistic souls on earth.
“Hi Linda, how are you? You look nice. I like your hair better the other way. We should have a kissing booth at the Magical Forest, can you do that? You look like Tina Turner. Are you going to the dance next weekend? I saw you on stage at the Santa Run, did you see me? I wore a beard and a red suit. Can I have a paper clip? You should go on a diet. I like you.”
Each day, including bad hair days, was a joy and an adventure. As the chief fundraiser for 36 years, I had no qualms asking for six, seven and eight figure gifts to support the most deserving people on the planet. All I had to do was look at the kind, innocent people, who simply wanted a chance at a life we all take for granted, and I could easily ask for the moon. And then I would come home to my own sweet Christopher and know that he was born to me for a reason. This was certainly a life chosen for me.
When asked about retirement plans, I said I would never leave. I would die at my desk…or maybe keel over at a ripe old age at the entrance to the Magical Forest, a beloved event that I am proud to have created. I wasn’t going anywhere. I planned to be at the Forest entrance every night till the wee hours, greeting the guests and the volunteers that I had come to know and love over the years. Oh yes, I would be smiling when I kicked the bucket.
But it was not to be.
It turned out a higher power had different plans for me.
And now…well…simply ZOWIE! Like the caterpillar who thought his world was ending, but became a butterfly, I too have been unexpectedly transformed. I have written a book! 350 pages! It’s a story of overcoming homelessness, of becoming a self-taught dancer and actress and then a crazy disability rights fundraiser when my son Christopher was born with Down syndrome. It’s a story of building and growing a Village like no other through grit and determination. It tells of the discrimination people with disabilities face as it took me 18 years to get my boy legal in the US. I went into labor on a plane from Las Vegas to Canada and, by a capricious twist of fate, he was born Canadian to naturalized American parents, and branded an undesirable alien at eighteen months of age. And so, I broke the law and harbored an illegal alien in my home for sixteen years, my little disabled muffin, who wouldn’t be able to go to Opportunity Village, the place that I was steadily building. The book is now in the “beta read” stage and the reviews are really encouraging and I have been approached about a movie of my book!
While writing the book I also heard the siren call to service and I am traveling the world, helping NGO’s across the globe. I am at a Conference in Belfast in a few weeks, and then off to northern England to help a children’s Hospice pull together a Magical Forest. Last week, I was privileged to be in the Malibu home of Producer Mark Burnett and his lovely “Touched By An Angel” wife, Roma Downey. On occasion, I get to fly on a Gulfstream with my best pal. I found angel caregivers for my Christopher, so that I have more freedom to help more charities. And, best of all, I am a new “Nonna” to Lilyclaire, the sweetest baby ever born who I am wildly in love with.
Life is extraordinary and fun, and if you just give new opportunities a chance, you will find your heart will sing like mine.
So, my message to anyone feeling lost and defeated, take it from me, life is a story, you just need to make yours a best seller. And live life like a butterfly. Take a rest. But never forget how to fly.