Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pearls of wisdom from a best-selling author

Best-selling author Jeannette Walls spoke in Charlotte today, dispensing pearls of wisdom gleaned from a lifetime that has taken her from homeless child to national gossip columnist to inspirational speaker.

Walls’s memoir “The Glass Castle” spent 100 weeks on the New York Times’ Best Seller list. She was a gossip columnist for from 1998 until 2007.

More than 1,000 people gathered at the Westin uptown to hear her speak at the Urban Ministry Center’s “True Blessings” lunch. She told stories about her hard-luck childhood, her shame as an adult in having a homeless mother and what she has learned from her journey.

A few of her stories:

  • Her father, an alcoholic who never fared too well, always promised her and her siblings that some day he would build them a glass castle. She could look at that as just another of his unfulfilled promises. Instead, she’s grateful that her father provided something more valuable than the castle itself: Hope. She always had that hope and a dream, more than other kids in her situation had.

  • One night she told her father she was scared of the monster under her bed. Instead of reassuring her, he told her to come hunting with him for it. He got a knife and she got a toy weapon and they went searching everywhere for it. Never found it. It must have run away. The lesson: “Dad told me to face my fears. If you look your demon in the eyes he really can’t hurt you.” Later, her demon was her own past. “Put a harness on your demon and make it work for you,” she said.

  • Her mother fell off a horse one day and told her how great that was. Walls was confused. Anyone can ride, her mother said. It’s when we fall that we find what we’re made of. “There’s no shame in falling,” Walls said. “You have to get up.”
The lunch benefited the Urban Ministry Center. UMC is helping people get up when they fall. Next month, UMC will open Moore Place, a home for 85 chronically homeless men and women. It’s a big moment for Charlotte. Rather than just comforting the homeless, UMC will be tackling the root causes, and saving taxpayers millions in the process. To help them, go to

Taylor Batten