I attended the 32nd annual Women Aware conference Thursday at the Black River Coliseum.
I was at the first conference more than three decades ago and it changed my life. Conference planners find keynote speakers who touch the hearts and minds of attendees.
One of the speakers the first year shared her life story.
While the account of her life was nothing like my life, it still challenged me to look at life differently.
She talked about her childhood. She grew up in a poor area of the county, but her family was poorer than most. Her classmates tried to shame her because she didn’t have things they had. Intending to make fun of her by giving her scented soaps for Christmas, she turned the tables on them by being appreciative of the soap, which was a luxury she’d never had.
After she married, she and her first husband worked to pull themselves out of poverty, but he died at an early age, leaving her a single mother.
They had a small construction company, which she needed to continue operating to make a living for her family. No one wanted to hire her company because it was owned by a woman.
Not willing to accept failure, she took small jobs other companies didn’t want and continued to grow her business. Whatever obstacle was thrown in her path, she was determined to use to her advantage.
Her story touched my soul and while the obstacles in my life were nothing like hers, I decided to not allow them to be roadblocks.
One of this year’s keynote speakers, Kechi Okwuchi, decided to not allow her scars to define her.
Kechi was one of only two passengers to survive a plane crash in Nigeria in 2005. The plane had 109 passengers, many of them were her school friends.
During her journey of recovering from the burns, she decided to not allow her scars to define her.
Through her faith in Christ, she learned to identify herself as God saw her. She realized she could not bring back the dead or stop the accident.
A part of her therapy was singing. At first she sang at church and burn and trauma fundraisers, inspiring others. She finished high school and earned a degree in economics.
Challenged to share her singing talents, Kechi at first was hesitant, but proceeded, becoming a finalist on “America’s Got Talent” and again on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.”
She’s released her first single “Don’t You Dare.”
As she goes about exploring her future, Kechi continues to challenge people like me to “welcome the right kind of influence” into our lives and continue on our “great journey.”
I’m looking forward to 33rd Women Aware conference and the speaker the committee decides to bring to Southeast Missouri to challenge others to live their lives to the fullest.
Reach Horton at firstname.lastname@example.org.