The stories of my clients’ lives that they share with me are gifts. Each one is a precious blessing to me. One retiree is a remarkable woman. She was born and raised in the Deep South and came of age during the Civil Rights era. I was born in the 60s, but grew up in the Midwest, naïve and removed from the unrest taking place in many parts of the country. My client was a witness. She couldn’t use certain restrooms or drink from the nearest drinking fountain or swim in the town pool. She experienced the horror of having a cross burned on the front lawn of her home.

It would be easy for such an individual to embrace bitterness and lash out against the system that tried to hold her back. Instead, she fought for a better life for herself and for future generations who would follow her. She is a woman of deep thirst: for knowledge, for understanding, for equality and for justice. Her quest was to show the people who considered her a second-class citizen that she could rise up from hatred and be a contributor to a kinder, more inclusive world. Trained as a teacher, she moved to the Midwest and educated children of all races and ethnic affiliations. She became President of her local teachers’ union and was acknowledged as a skillful negotiator. Later, she worked for the U.S. Army and was charged with improving the service branch’s inclusiveness and equal employment opportunities.

I am humbled that she chose me to help her with her retirement planning so she can live out the rest of her days in dignity. I am enriched by her story and her example.