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Amanda Lindhout recounts trauma and gratitude at Nelson event

Lindhout spoke to 200 people at the Nelson Star's annual Find Your Divine event

Amanda Lindhout, kidnapped and tortured for 16 months in Somalia in 2008 while she was working as a journalist there, spoke to 200 people in Nelson on May 6 at the Nelson Star's Find your Divine event.

Lindhout, who now lives in the Nelson area, told the audience that during the darkest moments of her ordeal she noticed a small note of resilience and hope inside her, and she practiced nurturing it. 

"I would try to begin to pay more attention to that quiet voice and to try to turn the volume up on that. Because if I could rest in that, even just for a minute or two, or 30 seconds or 10 seconds, it was relief from the hopelessness ... And what I found over time was that it got easier, it got much easier to connect to that part of myself."

But this did not make the despair or the pain go away, she said. Rather, she found that the despair and the hope could exist at the same time. 

Lindhout still uses that awareness to this day after many years of dealing with PTSD from the experience. She said the inhumanity of her captors is balanced by the kindness of the thousands of people who contributed financially to the ransom that eventually freed her.

"Despair and resilience can live together at the exact same time, and so too can Somalia be the worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life and simultaneously be the catalyst for the biggest growth that I've ever had."

Lindhout told the audience some horrific stories about the violence and starvation she suffered, and she balanced these with details of how she got through it.

For example, she told of a small bird that interrupted her plan to take her own life.

"Somehow, this little bird had flown into the house and was hopping around on this little bit of light on the floor. I had not seen a bird in over a year. I knew in an instant that that bird was a messenger of hope and in that moment, the desire to not be here anymore was gone and never came back again."

During her captivity she did not see the sky for more than a year. But she said that since her release she marvels at the sky every day, as part of a practice of moment-by-moment gratitude that is a legacy of her captivity.

Lindhout was generous in answering audience questions, giving close attention to the questioners and answering with a mix of gritty past reality and hope for the future. She took the same approach to her book signing following the event, giving close consideration and care and to each person as she signed copies of her 2014 book A House in the Sky.

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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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