I believe my entire life has been a miracle! Born in abject poverty in an old shack in Troy, Alabama my life was to be a struggle from the beginning. I was birthed by a midwife, a black lady named Josephine helped my mother bring her fourth child, a daughter, into the world. In later years my brother would say a black woman brought me in a suitcase and I would cry, thinking I didn't really belong to this family.

As a baby my dad tells me that it was impossible to take my bottle away. I was five years old and knew the formula for making my own "carnation bottle". I remember it today. It was half canned Carnation evaporated milk, half water and lots of sugar. I learned how to make it myself and would sneak a bottle even when I knew I was too old. I thought I would be able to take it to school and have a bottle for recess.

So much had happened to me before the age of five. I had been molested and didn't know then that it would mar me for life.

I started reading and doing math at around four years old as I had older siblings who taught me as a joke to show their friends. They thought it was funny that their little sister could do fractions.

I never got over the love of reading and no matter how it came about, it has been a very important part of my life since I quit school at age fifteen due to circumstances beyond my control. I did go on to get my GED and managed to attend a community college for a couple semesters but I have always craved learning.

My mother had left me in Virginia when I was twelve years old, taking my three younger sisters and returning to Florida. My mom was in and out of mental institutions most of my life. She suffered from an alcohol and prescription drug addiction that I knew nothing about until later in life. That's when my nightmare began.

I moved in with a family in Norton, Virginia and had stepped into white slavery. I was beaten with a belt at the slightest provocation and also brutally sexually abused. I went to school with welts showing on my legs and arms and back then nobody noticed, except to wonder why I cried all the time. I cried if anyone spoke to me and mourned for my mother and sisters at night. The social worker came one day and wanted to take me away and put me into a mental institution but these people I lived with said all the right words, I guess, and I was allowed to remain with them.

I tried to run away at age fourteen. I had finally gotten the courage to leave. I had a friend, I thought, in a city a couple hours away, by bus, so I really thought he would help me. He called the police as he didn't know the circumstances or what I was going through so I was taken back home. I felt so rejected, first my mother, then my friend. The beatings and molestation continued. I started sneaking drinks from bottles that were around the house. This made me feel better. I didn't have to think about the Hell I was living in. Escape remained utmost in my mind. I knew I had to leave.

It was cold and snowing the night I decided to go. I was in my pajamas and waited to all was very quiet. I was shaking so hard, I just knew someone would awaken but I managed to put pants on over my nightclothes, no shoes. I ran through the snow to the tiny police station in the small town where we lived. By this time, some of the people I knew where starting to have a pretty good idea about what was going on. The captain of the police departments's daughter was a friend of mine and one of the only people I had let in my life. I wasn't allowed to associate with people but I seemed to have a need for friendship.

My friend's dad was there and took me in and found me a place to live with a mother and her daughter. No charges were filed. I would never have told the entire truth about what had been happening to me. Sexual abuse was a four letter word. Nobody talked about it. I was seventeen years old and few would have believe all this anyway, or so I thought at the time. I was just so happy to be out of it!

I was working in a furniture factory at the time and had been since age fifteen. I had my own money and soon rented a room in a rooming house ran by a nice gentleman who eventually helped me get into the Army. I continued to get drunk daily and pass out at night , up bright and early the next morning ready to go to work.

I joined the Women's Army Corps, got married, had three beautiful children and didn't drink much for a few years. My husband and I separated and I began living in a series of abusive situations. I had men and we drank and we fought. My kids just felt like they were in the way and I guess they were. They were the brunt of all the fighting and I said I would never put my kids through what I went through but guess what? They might have gone through worse than I did. I spent lots of time in the emergency room getting sewn up, etc. Black eyes were a common thing and I got so I never looked in the mirror. I had run ins with the law. I developed a habit of wanting to drive when I drank. I had completely lost respect for myself and had no self esteem. I had no friends or family that would help me. I ended up living from place to place or on the street, sleeping outside. I had lost my most precious possession, my kids.

I was out of control. I knew this somewhere in the back of my mind but just didn't know what to do to change. I wish I could say the change happened overnight but it didn't and I am not sure I could fathom the wonder of it all had it happened so quickly.

God became known slowly to me. I had gotten so far down that I was agnostic. I really didn't believe in anything and at times seemed not to care. We always seem to remember God when we are sick or in trouble. I was both when I called out to Him for help. That is all I could say, "Please help me." And He did.

The real miracle in all this is that I now can see where my life went just the way it was supposed to. God was always there, I just didn't know it. I guess it is like being blind and one day starting to see just a little light, then it becomes brighter and brighter till images form. There is a reason for everything that happened to me.

My life is so quiet and peaceful now. I passed the age of fifty with flying colors though I always said I would never live that long. I still have some of the battle scars both mentally and physically but it doesn't bother me today. I catch myself going back and rehashing the life I once lived and when that happens, I give it back to God. I know I am not capable of handling everything but He is. I focus on what is happening this day. I know there is another miracle just around the corner!

Sharlett F. Hunt