CORNWALL – A woman who suffered hundreds of days in the darkest emotional and physical place in her life wants people to choose compassion over anger.
Amanda Lindhout detailed her August 2008 kidnapping by teenage insurgents in Somalia, which is part of her book A House in the Sky: A Memoir, a New York Times bestseller in 2013.
She was the guest speaker Wednesday morning at the Children’s Treatment Center Celebrity Walk & Breakfast at the Cornwall Civic Complex.
During some of her darkest days while being repeatedly sexually abused by a teenage boy, Abdullah, Lindhout said she faced a point where she was facing an “internal snap” and used all her energy to ward off this sense.
But when that “internal snap” happened, she told the audience it was like the whole world stood still and at “her weakest moment it had given way to the greatest opportunity….to look for compassion for those that hurt me.”
“I experienced it as an actual physical sensation of something opening up in my chest. And, as that happened, I immediately felt like the whole world stood still,” she said, “and for that split second, I understand with absolute clarity that this person who was creating so much suffering for me could also truly (be) suffering himself.”
Lindhout believed her sexual abuser had “layers of pain (that) covered his conscience” and drove him to make someone suffer more than he did.
She said that “tiny seed of compassion” didn’t go away and she relied on it until she was freed.
Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan were held captive for 460 days before their families were able to come up with the $3 million ransom in November 2009.
Back in Alberta after her ordeal, Lindhout said she had to make “real choices” after a couple months whether to be “in a bitter depressed state” or to hold on to the gratitude and compassion that kept her alive.
Since that time six years ago, Lindhout has established a non-profit organization, the Global Enrichment Foundation, to help roughly 200,000 people in Somalia.
She also worked to help bring food to people in Somalia during the famine crisis.
“Every morning before I get out of bed, I made the choice to forgive,” Lindhout said. “Suffering of any kind, it often causes us to awaken and want to make meaning out of our lives somehow.”
The Children’s Treatment Center raised $226,200 last year and it hopes to meet or exceed that goal this year.
The morning walk and breakfast also saw a number of donations, including $12,000 from the Benson Charity Golf Classic, $5,500 from Giant Tiger and a pledge of roughly $9,300 from the Bishops Brodeur Assembly from its upcoming spaghetti supper.
In its 19 years of service, the center has treated 2,340 children for emotional, physical and sexual abuse and has never received a complaint, said CTC chairman Don Fairweather.