“One forgives to the degree that one loves.”
- Francois de La Rochefoucauld
While working on Lanford Wilson’s “The Moonshot Tape” an idea came to mind for an original piece I’d been kicking around about my aunt. My father’s sister. Probably because many of the issues dealt with by Diane in Moonshot were the same my aunt Edna had endured. Mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. But what inspired me to explore Edna’s story is that where Diane emerged bitter, self-destructive, cynical, vengeful, and in her own way, abusive, Edna chose the path of forgiveness. Not self-righteous or sanctimonious…just good old fashion…better to put love and respect out there into the world than contribute even that much more negativity. And she did…she forgave everyone who trespassed against her. And believe me, there were many and their trespasses against her would be considered unforgivable by most.
After almost being killed by her husband for the umpteenth time, she packed up her boys, got a lawyer, sued for divorce and got a small donut shop in the settlement. She became the donut lady. Working tirelessly, around the clock, even engaging her sons in the enterprise, and making a sufficient success of the place to support her family. And through it all she maintained her humanity. Chose to laugh in the face of adversity. She didn’t complain about the hand she’d been dealt, she didn’t write books, or make movies, or paint pictures, she didn’t have time. She had to work to support her three sons. No time for lofty goals, pursuing dreams, aspirations. And she certainly didn’t have the money to pay expensive therapy bills! Her therapy was WORK! And her sons. And God.
She doesn’t know exactly when she started taking in other people’s children…but before she knew it she was supporting some 29 kids. The numbers would increase and decrease over the years depending on the need. No matter what her economic situation she’d never turn a child away. She committed herself to taking responsibility, and providing, for neglected and abused kids. And she never asked for a dime from anyone to help support them. She made sure each and every child in her care knew his/her value, worth…knew he/she was loved and respected. That each and every one of them were winners, not the losers they’d been made to believe they were.
Exploring the life of this modern day heroine, this woman of tremendous substance gave me hope…that no matter what personal, political, economic, chaotic, situation exists at any given moment…what domestic or international crises…that in this extraordinary world of OURS…heroes walk among us. Not the superheroes depicted on screen or in comic books…but real live, flesh and blood heroes who are out there every day healing the wounded masses. Simply because there’s a need. Human beings need love, need respect, need to know they’re worthy of life on this planet, in this universe…every single one of us…and the Edna’s of the world have committed themselves to making sure we all remember that.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…they’re not perfect these heroes. But anyone who sacrifices so much to care for so many…come on. Forgiveness people. Wasn’t that ultimately the lesson? Forgive them, Father. It took the son to illuminate that. Something the Father missed entirely. So clear and yet so clearly unseen by God. Thank you, Jesus. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Which takes love. Love, love, love, people. Does in fact make the world go round. And people like Edna inspire the crap out of me. Because her story illuminates the extent to which love really can sustain a person even in the face of overwhelming odds and heal all wounds.
Thank you, Edna.
“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”
- Bryant H. McGill
OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL DONUTS
Edna Howard, the donut lady of Hayward, California, is more than she seems. The chamber of commerce is presenting her with its annual Local Hero award for her charitable works with abused and neglected kids. In her acceptance speech she shares, perhaps for the first time, the extent of the decades of physical, psychological and emotional abuse she endured. But standing before the assembled crowd is no victim. Without a trace of self pity she simply, and at times hilariously, tells her story. About how…through sheer stubborness, enormous creativity, a tremendous capacity for love, and God’s peculiar care…she escaped her would be destroyers, and found salvation in…of all things…donuts.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission,” which, although undeniably true, is something a child can’t possibly…well…it’s wisdom that comes with age. IF you’ve been lucky enough to survive with a semblance of your soul intact. Our lady of perpetual donuts devotes her life to defending, protecting and empowering the countless children in her care. “I always try to create a happy place for children because I never had it.” And she does. One love filled donut at a time.
EDNA – Funny, loving, generous, extremely kind, divorced mother of three. Okay, she can be occasionally ornery. She’s a southern fried soul survivor with a profound appreciation and respect for, and love of, life. She owns a popular neighborhood donut shop in Hayward, California, where she works her shapely tail off with her teenage sons. Oh, and she saves children in her spare time.
“Without forgiveness, there’s no future.”
- Desmond Tutu
1975. Edna Howard, élue Citoyenne de l’Année, reçoit des mains du maire une plaque commémorative qui récompense son infatigable engagement auprès des enfants maltraités.
De sa naissance où elle fut déclarée morte-née, à ce jour où elle est célébrée, Edna emprunte à nouveau le chemin qui l’a menée jusqu’à devenir une figure mythique de la ville de Hayward, propriétaire d’un donut-shop aussi accueillant que sa propre maison, elle qui petite fille, respirait leur odeur chaude et sucrée sur le seuil des boulangeries pour se consoler de n’être pas aimée.
Avec un humour généreux et sans aucune complaisance, Edna fait le récit d’une vie chaotique où s’entrechoquent les rêves d’enfance et la violence d’un père, le fantasme d’un amour qui la sauverait et la brutalité d’un prince tout sauf charmant, le bonheur immense d’être mère et l’instinct de survie qui lui donnera le courage de divorcer à une époque où les femmes ne savent pas encore exister sans leur mari.
A travers sa propre histoire, Edna tisse en creux l’histoire d’une famille dysfonctionnelle écrasée par le secret, et d’une réconciliation rendue enfin possible grâce à la parole libérée et au pardon.