"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."
I heard this phrase a lot as I grew up, this reflection that the outside means very little if the inside is lacking. It's true. We tend to look at a person and judge their attributes from their appearance and standing. We judge their capability based on a degree, a job, their physical size or the way they speak. We judge them based on almost anything really. It's tragic that we rob ourselves of the diversity of beauty and spirit that can be witnessed when we look below the surface to look for true strength. These past few days have had me digging for connections, seeking them where I may, as previously scheduled appointments disappeared. What I have found is that these amazing people who have crossed my path have been some of the best. Today I met a young woman of remarkable strength, maybe one of the strongest people I have ever met, thanks to Connection #30, Magical Mary Ann Lilly.
It would be easy to look at Cheyenne Banton and underestimate her strength. She is small and willowy, a beautiful young woman just coming into her own, but there is an incredible power there. Cheyenne is fearless, she speaks to everyone, there are no strangers. Her heart is beautiful and open, with a faith that can only be described as amazing and an integrity that would be admirable in someone three times her age. Cheyenne has a powerful voice. No, she is not loud, but her words and the way she speaks carries with them such command and presence that you cannot turn away. Her words are well beyond her years and yet she is not arrogant, not cocky, but rather respectful and kind in the way she speaks. Cheyenne believes in a world of love and she seeks to spread that world and word to those around her. Within a few moments of meeting this 19 year old woman, I am genuinely impressed.
Cheyenne's story is incredible, walking a road of pain and tragedy, yet always rising. I think of her as the phoenix from West Virginia. As with all of the connections, I will not divulge the details of her story. It is a treasure of immeasurable value, one that she so generously chose to share with me, and may someday choose to gift you with it as well if you are lucky. I will however tell you what the impression and lessons I learned from her are, for those are things that you should hear, words that should imbrue themselves into your memory.
The most striking thing about Cheyenne is her faith, bar none it is the source of her amazing strength and the wellspring from which this love she has for people springs forth. When you talk to her about her story, about her troubles she has seen and the difficulties facing her today, she believes that all will be well. Cheyenne does not believe a path will be revealed to her, she knows one will be. There are many parallels in our stories. I am almost 20 years older than her and yet I have not until recently had the strength she does, the strength to let go of anger and choose love as my way to interact with the world. Yet she does. So many of our heroes respond to hardship with power and anger, striking back in vengeance. They should be more like this young woman, embracing with love and letting the anger fall behind.
It is equally as amazing that she is so strong. As I said in the beginning, Cheyenne is proof that the size of the fight in the dog is what truly matters. As hardship upon hardship build for her, she fights back. She works and goes to school full time right now, studying nursing, and yet also had time to go to church and grab a meal with me this morning. Any ten people would buckle under the pressure she has faced, would have folded their hands and given up their seat at the table. I can unequivocally tell you that I, in point of fact, tried to do just that on multiple occasions. Not Cheyenne. She continues to move forward, to build something. She trusts in her faith and hopes instead of fearing. As a person, Cheyenne is definitely one of my favorite humans.
You have probably seen someone like Cheyenne in your life if you are lucky. You unfortunately may have discounted them or ruled them out. If you did, then I feel genuine sorrow for you. You have seen great love and great strength and walked away from it because it didn't look like the story book said it should. This slight young woman, this phoenix from West Virginia, is stronger than I was at her age with just as much of a story as I ever had. I am blessed to have met her today.
My time with Cheyenne was cut far too short, but I am looking forward to getting to know her better, to helping her however I can and to learning from her strength.
Favorite Dinosaur: Brontosaurus
Why: With their long necks, they always had their heads up and looked out onto the horizon, focused on the good.