What I Never Knew I Had In Common With Elizabeth Smart

I know I haven’t taken many pictures or been writing much this week…at least it may not seem like it.  But I really have been!  In fact, I think it might be a record-breaking week as far as numbers of photos and words.  So here is a little peek at what has been keeping me busy.  Last week I was privileged to be the event photographer at The Worth of One Women’s Conference at the Marriott in Ogden, UT.  There were many incredible speakers I’m looking forward to writing about, but one of my favorites was Elizabeth Smart.

As the event photographer, I got to chat with her a little (She was very nice!) and take all the portraits of her with the VIP guests.  Seeing her patiently hug, visit and smile with a line of women for over an hour was humbling.  She was in TALL HEELS! But hearing her story first hand was truly inspiring.

If you aren’t familiar with her story, when Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old she was kidnapped at night from her bedroom, “married” to a man who claimed to speak to God and became a chained prisoner held captive in the mountains for 9 months.  But she not only survived near starvation, daily sexual, emotional and verbal abuse, and the elements, she escaped!
She said when she thought about the name of the event “The Worth of One” she was reminded of the man who made the phone call that led to her rescue.  Elizabeth had done enough to get her captors to return to her home state of Utah after spending winter in California.  But it was this man who saw her walking with her captors and his act of calling 9-1-1 after feeling that something “wasn’t right” that saved her.  She clearly understood the POWER one person can have.
The most powerful truth I took from her speech though was her PRESENCE.  This girl was HAPPY!  She was POSITIVE!  She had spent the majority of 9 months (during which she should have been starting high school and enjoying life) abused, peeing in a bucket, chained to a tree in the woods.  Yet, she was not ashamed or afraid to share the ugly details of her story.  She smiled.
She said “It’s not what happened to you that makes you who you are.  It’s what you decide to do that makes you who you are.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Turn your tragedies into triumphs.  That’s what an author signed in a book he gave me three years ago, a book I didn’t even have the money to buy, as he mercifully shared his story of overcoming depression.  That’s what Elizabeth Smart demonstrated as she spoke to a room full of hundreds of women who needed a reminder that things CAN get better.  And that’s what I’m now working on now as I share one book, one photo, one song at a time.

Oh, yeah! I forgot to say that’s partly why I haven’t been posting here.  I’m done with my first book!  “Think Yourself Healthy” is being formatted and getting ready for distribution.  I may not have gone through the same scary ordeal as Elizabeth Smart, but we share the same attitude.  Just like she said so bravely and fiercely, I would never change my past.  If given the chance, I would never go back and change my choices.  They’ve made me stronger,  They’ve given me experience.  Like she expressed, I would never have met the people I’ve been able to either!

(In the hotel lobby setting up early…with a silly sidekick!)

I chose to participate in this conference because it was held on International Suicide Prevention Day.  I am so grateful I’m still here.  I know now that I matter, as a mother, wife, daughter- just for being me!  When Elizabeth woke up that first morning, alone with strangers, cold, in the wilderness, stripped of her own clothes and anything that reminded her of home, it was her memories of her family that kept her focused on staying alive.  Remembering her mother’s beautiful face made her decide she would fight EVERY DAY to escape her prison.

(One more family selfie- my daughter LOVED the “beautiful room.”)

I could say the same thing.  When I wanted to give up my battle with depression, when I wanted to be done fighting, it was images of my family that kept me brave.  It was my children, parents, and husband that kept me courageous.  That’s why I care so much about photography, film and making music that highlights those moments.  The memories we make with our families are SOURCES OF POWER.  Thank you, Elizabeth Smart, for reminding me that.

Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter how challenging your situation.  Don’t give up on your future, no matter how hard things might be.  Don’t give up on your life!  You are WORTH IT!  Life can always change for the better if you are willing to fight.

Love, Eva