Kristina Rogers, founder of Letters and Marques, assisted with this article.
When I sat down with Dorothy Noote, I knew I was in for something unique. A former registered nurse of 45 years turned 6 Stones counselor, she brings a unique energy to every conversation. At “72 years young,” she bubbles over with inner peace and genuine joy – a rarity in our cynical times.
I knew bits and pieces of her story; that she serves as a counselor in the New Hope Center while also relying on it for food. I knew that she had a host of medical conditions. But I struggled to see how all of those difficult experiences had produced such a positive person.
The more I dug into her story, the more I realized that it was more than a single narrative. Dorothy, like many people, has been shaped by thousands of little stories that add up to create something bigger. Fortunately for all of us, she was more than willing to share the parts that make the whole.
“I had been told never to be rear-ended.”
Dorothy’s journey from registered nurse to 6 Stones counselor was an unexpected one. Looking back, however, she is convinced that God was at work in every second of it. Even the moments that shook her at her core.
For Dorothy, the path toward 6 Stones began nearly twenty years ago with a multi-car, double rear-ending collision. At the time, the nurse suffered from cervical spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the vertebrae in the neck that made her accident much more dire. In fact, she had been warned specifically about the damage a rear-end collision could do to her spine.
Disoriented and feeling as if her “head was going to roll off of her neck,” Dorothy went to see her doctor. Astounded that she hadn’t been x-rayed yet, he immediately demanded that she have images taken.
“I went to see him two days later. He walked in and he sat down, and he put his head in his hands. [At that point] I’m thinking ‘this isn’t going very well.’” Dorothy recalled. “He said ‘I want you to see the best neurosurgeon there is in Dallas. Immediately. You’re in trouble.’”
During her operation, that surgeon discovered that the damage to Dorothy's spine was even worse than anyone had feared. They expected to find three collapsed cervical discs. In reality, all twenty-three had given way, including the one that controls breathing.
Dorothy had to re-learn everything. How to walk. How to swallow her food. She was doing well, too, until a searing pain in her feet cut her recovery short. She had developed plantar fasciitis, which grew into tendonitis that became neuropathy. Her damaged nerves have sidelined her for the last seven years.
Then, everything blew away. As Dorothy’s health declined, she was no longer fit to continue working as a registered nurse. Not being fit for work meant not having the means to keep her house. Because of hospital bills and a lack of steady income, Dorothy found herself dropped into an unknown land: poverty.
“I’ve always tried to have empathy and sympathy,” she recollected from her days of treating others as a nurse, “but unless you’ve lived it, you don’t have it.”
Dorothy re-settled in an apartment where she could barely scrape by on her pension from Parkland Hospital. For the first time, she struggled to stock her pantry. Until her apartment manager passed along a flyer for 6 Stones.
A Heart Worthy of Sharing
Dorothy still remembers how hard it was to reach out for help. The gray feelings of shame and humiliation. The black and white thoughts of failure. And yet, on a Thursday afternoon when she arrived only to learn the hours of operation had changed, Dorothy’s gradated world changed, too.
That day, Ciara — our Development Coordinator — noticed Dorothy outside and opened the door to her, inquiring how she could help. Dorothy remembers stepping inside to discover that a North Texas Giving Day event was underway.
Embarrassed, Dorothy shied away from the staff and volunteers huddled around phones and tables as they reached out to thank Giving Day donors for their support. She didn’t want to interrupt. But before she could make her escape, 6 Stones staff had welcomed her with lemonade and baked treats.
“I was so astonished with what was happening that before I left, I said to [Ciara] ‘You know, the Lord says that he’ll bless those that bless us and He’ll curse those that curse us,’” Dorothy said. “So I prayed for her, and as I’m leaving and thanking her, she said: ‘when you come back for food in a couple days, I wish you would consider volunteering to be a counselor.’”
For the past three months to date, Dorothy has done just that. She's here every Tuesday afternoon.
The Courage to Give Back
Initially, going to 6 Stones was not easy for Dorothy. She found herself completely out of her comfort zone, grappling with a new set of experiences and trying to understand it all as it hit her in waves. But she couldn't afford to wait out of fear that others would think less of her: the necessity for food and clothes outweighed it all. And it was in the midst of this new experience she found the courage to put one foot in front of the other.
“When you float on your tummy, it’s called the Dead Man’s Float. It sucks the life out of you. That’s what the Enemy wants us to do… to concentrate on what is wrong,” Dorothy said. “But the Lord showed me that the only way you make it is to flip over and look up. That’s where our redemption is. The minute I started counseling, I had flipped over. I was looking up… I met these awesome people, and as I rendered to them, God began to heal me.
With those first courageous steps, Dorothy started walking down a new path. One that is healing her as she seeks to encourage others. Taking those steps and changing her focus pulled Dorothy out of a mindset she described as her “pity party.”
Volunteering dismantled the lie that she had nothing to offer. She now shares her understanding with others; imparting courage and wisdom to men and women who find themselves in the same position of need that has taught her so much.
“If I had to do it again, everything that I’ve walked in the last seven years? I would do it in a split second to be where I am now. I have joy, I have hope, and I have peace. Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean it’s the end.”