I received much discourse after the publishing of my last article, featuring a small excerpt from my autobiography, The Coronation, to be released in 2016. Much of the discussion I’ve had in the last week led me to this article, to discuss the importance of sharing your story. I begin this piece with words from my father, the now 18 years sober and reverend, Keith Miller Sr. He often says to me, “Tell your story, loud and often. You never know who it may help.”
I must say to you that I have not always been proud of the things I had to overcome during my youth. I was often embarrassed and hoped to keep those chapters of my life a secret. For fear of being judged and being seen as “less than,” I never had the desire to speak publicly about what I went through. I remember my father, as he embraced his daily journey with the 12 Steps and as he worked day in and out at the Healing Place, saying these words to me and it took me a while to understand why it was so important that I spoke up and out.
In 2006, on my journey to get on the Miss America stage, I competed in the Miss Kentucky pageant as Miss Bluegrass Area. That year, my first year in the system, I was honored to be announced as first runner up, or the second place competitor. This placement allowed me the opportunity to compete at the National Sweetheart Pageant, dubbed the Mini Miss America pageant because each of the contestants had placed second in their state competitions and had finished just a few points shy of the crown. This pageant, held in Hoopeston, Illinois, was of a week competition and appearances around the area.
One afternoon, I was in a small group of contestants that visited a local middle school to address the students. Some of the contestants performed their talents, but I was asked to encourage them to focus on education and following their dreams despite their home situations. I was so nervous because although I had walked down international runways in front of thousands of people, I would have never, at 22 years old, dubbed myself a motivational speaker. I prayed for words and took the microphone having no idea what would come out or how. What came out was a version of my story, followed by encouragement that your home situation does not determine your potential… I encouraged the students to use school work and extra-curricular activities as outlets and means by which they could reach the stars.
After I finished speaking, I stood in the background waiting for the speeches to end, heart pounding, wondering if what I said mattered, and if I should have said anything at all. As the program concluded, we took a few pictures and as we headed toward the exit, I noticed a little girl leaning against the wall, sobbing. As I got closer she looked up at me and mouthed, “Thank you.” I approached her and took her hand, I asked her what was wrong? She hugged me and cried more, and then looked up and said, “Thank you for what you said. I know you don’t know me, but I was planning to kill myself when I got home from school today.” I gasped. She held me tighter and said, “You just gave me hope.” At that very moment, I knew that my purpose in life was much bigger than any title I could win, any sport I excelled at or any amount of money that I could acquire. My purpose, was and still is to give people hope; So they might not be deterred by the obstacles in their paths;So that they press forward to achieve their dreams.
There are so many people today who need to be set free by telling the truth about who they are. Likewise, there are so many more who would be inspired and encouraged by hearing the truth about those in positions of influence within our society. No one is flawless. We have all had to overcome something. And for those in the thick of negativity, heart ache and despair, a true, inspiring story could be the rope they need to pull themselves into a better place. I encourage you all this week to inspire someone with your story… besides, #SharingIsCaring. •