The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) recently participated in a mental health summit in Jackson, MS. The theme was resilience and I have never seen a better match between theme and keynote speaker.
Terry Morris was born in Chicago. When Terry was 4 years old, his father deserted the family. Terry was the spitting image of his father and Terry’s mother immediately began to blame her young son for all of her problems. She beat Terry, calling him by his father’s name while doing so, often withheld food, and once pushed him off a three-story building. If Terry brought home a B grade in school, his mother would force him to sleep outside in the cold for weeks at a time. She did not treat Terry’s four siblings in the same way—Terry was the scapegoat for anything bad that happened in the family.
As Terry began his teenage years, his mother decided to get rid of the cause of all her problems. She drove Terry to Tupelo, MS, and dropped him off. Terry lived in abandoned cars and foraged for food until he was finally discovered and placed in a boys’ home.
Terry then began to attend school regularly. He was given an IQ test which included recall of numbers. Terry could recall a sequence of 54 numbers. While he was still in high school, NASA called him. He was placed in a special academy, graduated from college, and has worked as a rocket engineer at NASA for 30 years. Terry is also a national speaker with numerous speaking engagements including the White House, Pentagon, FBI, CIA, National Institutes of Health, and many other venues.
Throughout his childhood, Terry always believed that a better life awaited him. Here is what Terry shared about how he achieved resilience:
- Forgive: let go of past hurts
- Guard your heart from negative influence: don’t carry heavy baggage
- Let go of things that you cannot control
- There is a difference between striving and thriving
- Resilience is a mindset
Terry credits God and the kindness of counselors with helping him obtain the better life that he so earnestly desired. He is a humble man, quick to express gratitude to the people, programs, and the state that gave him a new life. If you hear him speak, you will come away with a profound understanding of resilience and a different view of Mississippi!
The Journal of Public Child Welfare has produced a special issue on in-home services. The issue has 7 articles and is available free until June 30 at this link: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wpcw20/9/5. Two of the articles report on research findings on the NCFAS tools, including the initial field study of the Trauma/Post-Trauma Well-Being tool (see the articles by Kirk and Olsen, et. al.).
Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director