Navigating through life is a tricky affair. Without a little help, it can be pretty daunting. I believe that certain people and specific events are placed in our way to challenge and inspire us to become better, stronger.
This is a list of nouns. They are people, places and things that inspired or continue to inspire me to be better and stronger. They have helped me to find my way. They encourage me to grow mentally, spiritually and physically.
This is a living document. As long as I’m writing this blog, this list will grow. I encourage you to check back often. You may be surprised at what you find.
Born to a singer/song-writer and a homemaker, she was the embodiment of charity and love. Her mother passed away when she was just a child but with no mentoring or formal tutoring, her natural ability to nurture others and come to the aid of those in need is legendary. As a teenager she left Samoa with her adopted family to begin a new life in New Zealand, Canada and eventually the United States. She loved music, dance, books and children. Especially children. She raised a large family and was a stalwart in her extended family. She was an enemy to none and a friend to all. Her home in Salt Lake City became a haven for weary travelers, immigrants, the desperate and the down-trodden. From her childhood until her death in 1993, she was renowned for her ability to bring hope into the lives of all who knew her. She was faithful, industrious, soft spoke, kind- hearted, beautiful. Extremely beautiful in every way. She was the very first love of my life and I miss her dearly. She was my mother, Faleupolu Fetalai Utai-Matua.
He was a dynamo of energy. Always moving, always laughing, always fun and engaging. He was also thoughtful, cautious and meticulous. When he was sure that his three adult children (he ‘adopted’ another son after arriving here in the U.S.), were settled and prepared for life in the United States, he emigrated to this country and worked every day of his life until he died either as an employee or as a volunteer. On any given day, from the 1970’s until his death in 1992 at 102 years of age, you could find him walking the streets of Compton, CA where he became a permanent fixture. He was a thin, small, wiry old firebrand who could see through people. He was instrumental in helping entire families emigrate to the United States from Samoa. I learned humble service and charity from him. Through him I learned prudence and determination. I feared him, respected him, loved him. He was Tuipoloa Lauina Matua, my grandfather.
George Stewart may not remember me. After all, we were classmates at West Jordan (UT) Middle School when he and I were in the 7th Grade. But I sure remember him because he set my life on a course without ever knowing it. George wasn’t an athlete but when he played ball he gave it his best effort. He wasn’t Fred Astaire (or Chris Brown for you young ‘uns) but when he danced he drew a crowd. He had a small voice, but when he spoke I listened because he said profound things, even for a 13-year-old. George was sickly and got bullied more times in one day than I ever did my entire life. But George kept his head high and was never deterred from his educational goals as a kid. I have no clue what became of George, but I do know that he inspired me to stand up for what is right, to be a defender of the defenseless and to meet each day with a smile on my face. Thanks George, wherever you are!