What I love most about my work is that it allows me to collaborate with passionate people who are striving to make their mark on the world. Sometimes I get to write their story, sometimes I help them express their thoughts in a way that “makes them look as smart as they are,” and sometimes I get to give them the “edge” they’re looking for to bring their already good writing to excellent clarity.
But I always get to hear their authentic voice and the vision they are bringing to the world.
I love to be reminded that there are people all around us who are creating extraordinary lives for themselves by following their passion and giving their energy to help others and the world.
One of these people is Lee Cox, founder of the EVE Foundation here in Missoula, MT.
“For me,” Lee says, “extraordinary is when we go beyond what we are given and create a life for ourselves that is beyond ordinary, usual, or customary for us. For me that means I am happy, I am self-aware, I appreciate and value life and myself, and I am able to love, no matter what the condition. My mission is to inspire others to live extraordinary lives by living a life I love.”
This is a tall order for Lee, who was severely abused as a child. He grew up as an abusive adult, perpetuating the cycle of domestic violence. Through determination, awareness, and a lot of hard, inner work, Lee has become the person he has always wanted to be – a kind, gentle, and loving man. Even today that means recognizing feelings or situations that trigger emotional responses to childhood pain or fear and replacing them with the love and safety of the present moment. It’s a difficult path to walk and one that brings huge gifts to the world.
Lee is a canary for the violence the rest of us have become accustomed to in our world. He believes that violence is not just hitting, but is as simple as swearing at someone or exerting control over them in any way. Violence is anything that is not based in love.
Unchecked violence will escalate. Lee says, “I always got away with as much as my environment would allow. Once I cussed and got away with it, then it was easier for me to cuss the next time. Once I hit a loved one, it was easier the next time. When I was stopped at cussing by women who wouldn’t tolerate violence, I learned the warning signs and my violence never escalated.”
The turning point came for Lee when he lost his job, he lost his child, and he faced the real possibility of a jail sentence for domestic violence. Through the help of a therapist, he was able to “get” that he wasn’t the victim, protecting himself from hurt by the ones he loved, but that he was the one who was actually dangerous. And it was within his control. After years of trying to change everything around him, Lee has discovered that he can change his own response to the world.
Today, he asks that we each take responsibility for the quality of our own lives and take action to grow beyond what the world has handed us. We can each create our own extraordinary life.
The EVE Foundation is dedicated to creating a future in which children are born into a world of love and acceptance. Lee’s programs include:
Take It From Me – a speaking program in which Lee and his daughter present their experience of domestic violence and healing to groups and organizations.
Raised on Fear – Lee’s autobiography, which is being used by counselors, anger management programs, and individuals to help heal experiences of child abuse, violence, and anger.
Teens Inspiring Excellence – A series of short videos highlighting teens who have overcome adversity to graduate from high school, go on to college, and create lives of hope and meaning for themselves. The videos and accompanying facilitator guides will soon be available free-of-charge to schools, organizations, and individuals supporting youth.
VSI: Montana – A new anger management program for teens (Violence Scene Investigators) currently under development.
Lee’s attitude of acceptance, self-care, and courage to grow beyond his own limitations in pursuit of his life work is a model for the best of us. He writes, “Some say I am hard-wired for a life based on fear. I say I am not. I say I will keep on cultivating and nurturing a foundation of love from which to live my life.”
For more information on the EVE Foundation and its programs, please click here.