Meet Sylvia Garner, a mother with a story that has driven her to help youth, young adults, women and families. PURE (People Understanding the Relevance of Evolving) was created to show individuals and families that we all go through something, and once we no longer allow the shame of our situations to delegate our fate, we can evolve into something better.
I know you will be encouraged and inspired as you learn more about Sylvia’s powerful story below!
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Be You and Thrive (BY&T):
Your son endured bullying at a very young age and began using alcohol and drugs to dull the pain of embarrassment, shame and humiliation he suffered at the hands of others. How did you turn this unsettling situation into an opportunity to educate other families and teens?
Sylvia Garner (SG):
I’d love to sit here and say it came to me, but even in my son’s addiction, it actually came through him. He and I attended a weekend seminar in San Diego that focused on teens going through difficult things and how to manage through them.
On our way back home he said to me, ‘Mom there are so many families that I’m sure are going through what we’re going through. What if we created something where we could go out and speak to them about this? Because if we share our story, maybe they’ll share theirs and then everyone can heal together.’
How loving that your son wanted to help others while going through something so difficult. As a mother seeing your child go through such painful circumstances, did you ever question why this was happening or did you feel responsible as a parent?
Absolutely. We always want to understand that question, ‘Why me?’ But I don’t say that out loud because I know that to whom much is given, much is required. When my son was ten years old we realized that he was really talented. He began to rap and in the studio people used to call him a young Will Smith. He got paid to do shows and performances for birthdays and events for companies. He then started acting and modeling.
In school, the girls loved him and boys hated him, so he began to get bullied. It progressively got worse. We were going to the school to talk about the issue, because we taught our sons other ways of handling things without fighting. Maybe I should have taught him to protect himself at an earlier age. I taught them to speak up for themselves and to be intelligent young men.
By the time he got to eighth grade he took a really bad beating from a boy at school. And in the ninth grade, he ended up getting his nose broken and two black eyes from a senior—a boy he didn’t even know. So it was incidences like these that caused him to want to cover up his pain.
He’s such a great kid. How is it that these things are happening to my child? We raised him right. It’s a two-parent household. We are both educated. We have been on our jobs for long periods of time. We are upper-middle-class.
Sylvia, what advice do you have for women who are unsure how to move forward within their difficulty?
For me it’s two things: Faith and a village. When my faith was lower than low, my village stood up and their faith is what helped me. Everyone needs a true village that’s made up of really great friends and family.
Not everyone will understand, for instance, I remember my mother said to me one day, ‘I’m glad that this is your journey and not mine. I would have not been able to handle it.’ But we all have different journeys and my son was given to me for a reason, because I am able to handle it. I am able to love him through this.
Sylvia, I’m really touched by your compassionate heart. One of the subjects you teach in the PURE seminars is how evolution of self, leads to growth. How important is it to love yourself through difficulty?
Oh that’s the key to everything. When I’m talking to women and young girls, that’s the main thing that I like to talk about in regards to the evolution process: ‘That which does not evolve dies.’ I teach them to do what I call: A Mirror Challenge. Stand in front of the mirror and speak to yourself. There’s no one else in the mirror but you, so keep it real. Begin to tell yourself, not where your problems lie, but where your challenges are. And once you can honestly reveal those things to yourself, then you can begin to evolve. But until you are ready to be honest with yourself, you will always stay within your funk.
Your life has become a mission to educate and give back to others who are struggling. You share on your website how this life of servitude can sometimes feel lonely and unfulfilling. How do you continue to care for yourself as you give selflessly for the betterment of others?
‘It’s bigger than me’—is what I always remind myself. I also work for a major healthcare provider and there are so many situations that come across my path on a daily basis. I choose to meditate, so that I don’t miss a moment. I see people come there looking broken, tired and I know that I may be going through something at home, but I don’t ever want to miss a moment to put a smile on someone’s face or hand them a tissue if they begin to cry. I always focus on what I can give to the patients to make them better. It’s just a part of me.
My mom was a missionary for years and I now realize how much I picked up from her. At the age of 28 I came to visit my mom and there was a 6’4 homeless woman bathing in her bathtub. She brought her home from McDonald’s, let her take a bath, got her clean clothes and a blanket and asked her if she wanted to make any calls. I saw my mom be selfless her whole life, so I don’t know any other way to be.
And so would you agree that you thrive through giving to others?
Absolutely! And I think that we would all thrive more from giving.
Everything is ‘Me, me, me’ or ‘Do it for yourself.’ When you give, you actually get treated through seeing the joy through someone else. Most people don’t realize that until they take the time to give of themselves.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Sylvia. You are a beautiful example of living authentically and seeing opportunity within your difficulty.
I just want to say to all the women reading this, that we are stronger than we believe. We have all gone through some difficult things. It doesn’t matter what your nationality is—we have come through the woman’s suffrage movement. We are more powerful then we believe, but we just have to believe.
When Sylvia and her husband found out about their son’s drug and alcohol abuse, he ran away from home for 8 months, yet after reuniting with him, they convinced him to return. Five years later, it was still a challenge for him to remain sober. ‘After six years my son is starting to wake up and come out of this. I’ve seen him teach classes, go to a National Team Leadership Program and speak to over 2000 kids. After he tells his story, kids stand in line for an hour to talk to him. It’s amazing! He has the ability to change lives because of what he has gone through.’
Sylvia Garner lives in Palmdale, California and is a wife and mother to three. Founder of PURE (People Understanding the Relevance of Evolving) Empowerment Seminars and Author of The Evolution of Me through Signs.
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