She has not had a very easy life. She was born in Mexico (her family came here when she was a baby) and was raised here by a single mother. She got pregnant herself as a teenager. When she was about 18, and had two small daughters, she started taking the discussions and came to Church for the first time. The building itself looked nothing like most churches she had been in before, but the bigger shock was that in the very Mexican town she was accustomed to, the congregation was almost entirely white and middle class. The social difficulties of such a situation would be enough to keep most people from coming back. But it didn't stop her. She felt it was right, so she kept coming. She got baptized, even though her family thought it was an "iglesia loco" and she was a little off her nut for doing so. When she became pregnant with another baby out of wedlock, she gave that infant up for adoption, despite the protests of her own family and the taboos of her native culture, because her new belief system taught that each child deserved a chance to start life in a stable, two parent home. She married a young man who was a member of her new church, but ended up divorced when it turned out that he was not the man she thought he was, and now shares custody of her oldest son with him. A few years ago, she met a nice young military man, and they got married and now have an almost 3 year old son of their own. A little over a year ago, he joined the church also.
I can think of a few people in wards I have lived in that would only see the surface of her life and would, unfortunately, look down on her, missing her incredible strength and successes. Through all life's ups and downs, she's managed to support her family (a lot of the time on her own) and get all four of her kids to church every week, whether Dad's in town or on ship. This past winter, her husband was in a motorcycle accident that left him with bad road rash and a few broken bones. There was never any "Why me/us" type of complaining or exasperating (though it made things difficult on several fronts). It only strengthened their resolve and their faith.
It would be easy for this woman to have anger or bitterness or frustration with the way her life has gone. But she doesn't. She takes active responsibility for herself and her life and keeps trying hard no matter what obstacles come her way (and there have been many more than the ones I just mentioned). She is an incredible example of the truth that, if your life isn't going the way you want it to or the way it should, you have to change that. Her oldest child kind of amazes me. She struggles a bit socially, largely due to her ADHD, but she is remarkably good-natured. She's certainly no font of Gospel or secular knowledge, no grand scriptorian. She isn't the girl in Young Women who always knows the answer. But at 13, she has an incredible sense of who she is as a daughter of God and a firm and steady testimony. I know that is largely because of the persistence and example of her mother, even though many of the mother's mistakes in her youth were clearly visible to this, the oldest of her children. She's made sure that her children will also understand that "failure is no accident".
It reminded me of Doug actually. When I met him, he was 25 and still had a lot of fear and doubt about himself. His own role model had been full of intelligence, knowledge and good training and yet those things had not saved him from nearly self-destructing and hurting his family very badly. Doug, having many of the same traits himself, was worried he might repeat this pattern himself, with his own family. For his birthday that fall, I bought him something that represented one of the first failures he could remember--not to remind him of the failure, but to remind him that, though he didn't succeed on the timeline he had hoped, he did eventually succeed. In the card that accompanied it, I wrote, "Success is a process--you don't fail until you quit. . .Laziness is a convenient excuse (especially because its true). . .but don't let that be an excuse to just let life happen to you. Read 2 Nephi 10:23 again. . ."
That scripture reads: "Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves--to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." I was probably better at applying that at 18 than I am now. Doug's been a good example of that principle to me. Much like my friend at Church, he still has a lot of rough edges and things he's working on. But in the six years since I wrote that card, his fear of failure and disappointment has steadily declined. His peace and happiness and contentment in life has steadily increased.
Failure is no accident because we are free to choose. I suppose that no one (well, almost no one) consciously chooses to fail, but if we are failing it is undoubtedly due to our own choices--no matter what our families, friends or enemies have done to us or failed to do for us--and when we succeed (as individuals and particularly as families), it is because we have chosen the way of eternal life, right here and now. Sometimes we're allowed to succeed, temporarily, in spite of ourselves. But if we are trying hard to do the right thing and make the right choice, the Lord will not let us fail.