The Wisest Woman I Have Ever Known by Sasha Frugone | Inspiring Story #44 - Daily Inspired Life

A confronting story about the deep hurt inflicted by prejudice and the wise words that brought healing into a young woman’s troubled life.  

In my seventeenth year of life, I was privileged to visit a woman who lived in a shanty that was supported on stilts above a swamp, with dirt-packed floors and a thatched roof and no indoor plumbing.  She could not read or write.

The only attributes that I respected were money, power and education.  From this point of view, she had nothing of value for me.  I however, would receive a lifetime gift of wisdom from the conversation with this woman.

I was a Korean orphan.  I was found in a dumpster at one year old.  I was adopted into a German- American family.  The messages received from that family and community indicated that I was less than human because of the visage that I reflected.  The hurt inflicted from their prejudice was deep and the anger to mask it, strong.  

At one point in our conversation this woman, living in a shanty, asked me, “What do you feel if I call you a nigger?”  She was a beautiful black woman.  I replied, “Nothing.”  

She queried, “What do you feel when I call you a gook?  Never mind child, I see the flash of pain followed by your anger ready to tear me apart with the words that come so quickly to your lips.”  She asked again, “What do you feel when I call you a nigger?”  I repeated, “Nothing.”

She asked, “Ok, what does it make you want to do?”  I replied, “I want to laugh.”  She countered with, “Then why do you hurt when I call you a gook.  It is the same word spoken by the same person for the same reason – to give you a little bit of their pain.” 

She uttered the phrase that would one day give me the key to personal empowerment.  

“Child, words have no meaning until YOU give them life.  YOU don’t believe YOU are a nigger, but YOU believe YOU are a gook – that is why one hurts, and the other doesn’t – it is the meaning YOU give to those words.”

"Child, words have no meaning until YOU give them life"

She told me that one day, I would understand who God had created me to be.  It would be then that I would understand the power packed within. 

She told me that neither of us could pretend to be a race other than who we were.  She said, “I can’t leave my black skin at home and you cannot remove your face."  Because of this we were automatic ambassadors for our race to the world whether we wanted to be or not.  If I continued to tear people up and leave them emotionally small; there would one day be a little girl not as tough as me who would pay the price, possibly with her life.

Her Wise Words Had The Power To Change Me

"The next time you hear someone say hurtful words of prejudice, I challenge you to look them in the eye and see them deeply.

Look for the person that lives within, look for the person that they try to keep hidden from the world. When you do, you will see a frail, frightened human full of pain. When you choose love over hate, there will be a moment when the person will feel respect.

The power they might have had will disappear as the kindness that is buried in your heart will feel their pain. When this happens, God will begin to use you to heal the world. You will then understand why you were given the power of words. As his endowed servant, God’s message of love will be heard by the world.”

This would happen many years later in El Segundo, California in a bar where I shot pool.

He No Longer Had The Power To Hurt Me

I was between business appointments.  I went into the bar where I was entering a pool tournament on the weekend.  I had never been there during the day.  The day time patrons were a completely different clientele.  Most were over the age of 60, on social security and spent their days drinking their check waiting for the first of the month to reappear.

I got a rack of balls and on my way to the pool room, I heard an old rheumy voice shout out, “Who let the f*****g Buddha head in?”  In a split second I was transported back to the Midwest, to the voices that said I was not good enough to be in a white world.  

The anger surged, words were seconds from escaping my lips, when a moment of composure hit.  I decided to ignore.  While racking my balls, the man poked me in the arm and said, “Hey you Buddha girl, I am talking to you.”

I replied, “What is it you wish to say?”  I think my lack of accent so shocked him that he literally jumped back.  Stammering he said, “Well, well, well, since you don’t speak it, you probably don’t know that Buddha head is a compliment in your country.”

I looked him in the eye and saw the hidden person.  A man full of pain and disappointment. Resigned in the belief that there would not be any second chances for him.  Angry that life had been so unfair.   I heard her voice for the first time since we had met saying, “Child words have no meaning until you give them life.”

Exactly as the wise old woman had said, he no longer had the power to hurt me.  I was free and empowered, knowing that I was the one who gave meaning to the words of others.  No one could ever hurt me again without my permission.

"Exactly as the wise old woman had said, he no longer had the power to hurt me. "

I replied to him, “I could not imagine that a likeness to Buddha would be anything but a compliment.  Thank you.”  I saw his eyes clear and experienced that moment of respect that she had predicted.  As fast as it had arrived, it dissipated, and the fog of alcohol and broken dreams returned with angry offerings.  He was escorted out of the bar. 

I was free and empowered for the first time.

Living Free & Empowered

The next time her words would echo in my mind was on Muscle Beach in Venice, California.  Muscle Beach was populated by the tall slender beautiful bodies.  I weighed 287 pounds and was 5’ tall.   As I was spreading the blanket, I heard a shout, “There should be law against letting the whales beach.”

I turned ready to reply when I heard my wise old woman tell me to look into his eyes and see the hidden boy.  I noticed fresh acne and old scars all over his body.  I knew that he was simply trying to find someone he thought uglier than him.  If he could get everyone to focus on me, just maybe they would not see how ugly he believed himself to be.  

He no longer held the power to hurt me.  I said, “Thank you for calling me a whale.  I think they are awesome beautiful creatures.  I think you are a dolphin – wonderful and smart.”  I saw what looked like tears, then in a flash his defense shield returned.  “Ahhhh, shut up what do you know”, echoed in the ocean breeze as he retreated.

Honoring This Wise Woman

“Words have no meaning until you give them life” would be only one of the many things that I learned on that day.

My offering is a paying it forward gift to honor this wise woman who lovingly spent hours sharing words of encouragement and healing with a severely damaged child.  

She quoted from a book she could not read but had memorized from cover to cover, the Bible.

Her lineage was a long line of slaves who had not been allowed the privilege of reading and writing.  At night they shared the amazing and powerful gift of stories.  Each person would do the best they could to memorize the narratives shared, so they in turn could shape a future life with the golden tones they buried deep within their hearts.

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Sasha Frugone

“An Empowerment Coach/Motivational Speaker with over 30 years of experience leading workshops and training programs for cross-cultural groups.

Demonstrated ability developing and delivering educational sessions on inner child and present moment consciousness with the integration of a custom—designed grounding and visualization experience.  

Certified Coach through Wainwright Fowler.”


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READ ANOTHER STORY |  Found in a trash-can in the backstreets of South Korea, then adopted out to an American family where she faced abuse ...

to becoming an international empowerment coach and motivational speaker; Sasha takes you on a powerful journey of reframing her adoption story. 

>> Click here to read

Share the Inspiration
  • “Words have no meaning until YOU give them life” resonates so deeply with me. I have come to realise that reacting to the people who torment you is more harmful to you. I either let the comments slide or agree with them. Either way, they feel uncomfortable and we usually end up in a thoughtful conversation or go our separate ways.

  • Carol Graham says:

    Wise words indeed. Thank you for sharing this story.

  • IdaraJoy says:

    Beautifully written. We are all hurt by different things, but hurt is hurt. We should practice being kind and empathetic to others whether we know their story or not. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shar says:

    There’s much depth in your blog post. I agree that we should never let someone make us feel less. It’s the way we take and handle things. on the other hand, there are many people who don’t think twice before speaking.

  • An amazing article. It drives home the need for us to always be kind to others. It goes hand in hand with practicing tolerance of differences. If we show unity in diversity, the world will be a better place.

  • A story that moves right into the bones. Thanks for sharing it.

  • What a beautiful story, Sasha. Your photo reflects a soul filled with grace.

  • Patricia P. says:

    Wonderful and inspiring stories. I remember the stares and comments I would get as a cancer patient who lost her hair. People can be so cruel with things they don’t understand, as well. Cancer scares people, I think. And a bald head and no eyebrows flashes cancer right in their face. I just held my head high and carried on. Thank you for your stories. They are a great example to the world.

  • What an inspirational post. Thank you for sharing

  • Dani says:

    Raw. Beautiful. Captivating. My spirit soared after reading this. 💕❤️

  • Sharon says:

    Beautiful words. Kindness can win over hate. Love is the greatest gift we can give anyone who insults us or encourages us. I know this, but it’s more difficult to remember in everyday life. This story is a great reminder!

    • Sasha Frugone says:

      Sharon the difficulty for me comes from the meaning I give to the stories I write about the action of others…. always

  • Kay Shannon says:

    Such sage advice. Words only have the power we give them. The names people call you are a reflection on them. Words cut them deeply so they think they’ll cut you as well. They sure deflate quickly when you just smile and don’t take the bait.

  • Lisa says:

    This is a very inspirational post, and so true as well. Words only have power if you react to them, and we can all do better to be kinder to each other.

  • Cheryl says:

    Sasha, this is one of the most powerful posts I’ve ever read. She was a very, very wise woman. If only this could be taught in schools, businesses, everywhere! I also had tears in my eyes as I got to the end. Thank you. Sincerely, Cheryl

    • Sasha Frugone says:

      This epiphany is corner-stone to my journey. Present moment consciousness is what made it real in my life. Thank you for taking the time to share – it means so very much to me. I had to quit the work of database design as memory is not what it use to be. The coaching has called me for over 30 years. Was scary to step out into something new at this part of my journey. This wise woman gave me another gem that made this action possible as well….another story

  • Jacqueline says:

    Such powerful advice! I love how you respond with kindness.

  • This beautiful post, about two beautiful souls, reminds me love is stronger than hate. As someone who was bullied a lot I had to learn that words only had the power I gave them. Thank you for the reminder!

    • Sasha Frugone says:

      Thank you and back at you – it is in the experience of hurt that the options of compassion germinate. So glad you are here

  • Sarah says:

    Wow, I loved this. Beautiful and wise words. I shall try and be nice to the next negative comment I receive. Thank you for this.

  • Roshni says:

    Definitely your wise words were the best reply to him! Glad you were the bigger person

  • Marilyn says:

    I still find it appalling that people have so much gusto to say horrible things out loud. How do these people not realize that their behavior stems from their own insecurities and that they should fix themselves? Ugh, I want to scream. But alas, that solves nothing. Go you for having a shift in thinking and for gaining some peace!

  • Carla says:

    This was such a beautiful, moving story it brought tears to my eyes.
    Not only because it proves that love always wins but because it proves that we are born wise.
    That black, poor woman knew a lot more than most of us, those who trusted school to tell us everything that we should know and waited for others to define who we are.

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