In 2001, Cheryl Karpen received a desperate phone call from a father – and old friend – whose daughter had tried to end her life. “Maddy trusts you,” he said. “Won’t you please reach out to her?”
At 16, his daughter was fighting a hard battle to fit in and belong at school, but felt only rejection. While her parents and medical team sought hope and understanding, Maddy sank deeper into darkness and despair.
“I will never ever forget that call,” Cheryl says.
Helping From Afar
Maddy’s future, like her, was bright and extraordinary. Cheryl wondered how she could possibly help Maddy see how much the world needed her beautiful presence and kind, compassionate heart.
“From 1,800 miles away, my daily card and letter campaign felt insignificant and unworthy of her pain,” Cheryl says. “I desperately wanted to let Maddy know she could count on me to champion her dreams and to help her navigate life’s rough spots.”
Then she had a revelation. “What if I gave Maddy a written promise that she could keep on her nightstand as a reminder she was loved…and I mean really loved?”
Cheryl’s First “Eat Your Peas” Book
The written promise came in the form of a small book.
“At the heart of this little book is a promise,” Cheryl wrote to Maddy. “ A promise from me to you that goes like this: If you ever need someone to talk to (or cry or brag with), someone to hear (really hear) what’s in your heart and on your mind, call me. Call me early. Call me late. Just call me!”
She filled the pages with simple messages:
- “You are a very important somebody. No matter where you have come from, no matter what experiences you’ve had, no matter how crazy you think your family is (or isn’t), you are very important and no one can take your magnificence away!”
- “We all make mistakes in life. No one is perfect. Not even those who love you the most.”
- Cheryl quickly learned that in our humanness, and regardless of our ages, we all yearn to be accepted, to belong, to be loved, and to know that our life matters.
So what began as the very first “Eat Your Peas” book for Maddy inspired an entire series of books for daughters, mothers, friends and more. Today, the “promise to be there” for a loved one has touched nearly a million lives, including Maddy’s.
How Have You Reached Out?
We’d like to hear how you’ve reached out to help, or how you felt when someone helped you. Please leave us your comments below.
Cheryl Karpen has authored 26 books and is best known for her “Eat Your Peas” collection, a series that reflects her own goal in life: helping others communicate love, hope and encouragement when they can’t find the words themselves.