Noah Rode Out Storm To Thrive
by Tim Swarens
Courtesy of The Indianapolis Star (Friday, NOVEMBER 27, 1998)
Noah was 10 when his father left him alongside a Georgia highway. The child waited alone for a bus to come. It was to take him back to Florida, to home and his mother. But Noah’s mother was living with a new boyfriend. Little boys were no longer welcome. Noah was left to survive on the streets of Tampa. Eventually picked up and sent to an orphanage, he never saw his mother or father again. An abandoned boy might be expected to grow into a bitter man. But Noah Kersey has often exceeded expectations. At a time of year when we give thanks for the good in life, Kersey also is thankful for the bad. "God has been looking over me, protecting me and providing me with opportunities that I never would have had if I had stayed with my parents," Kersey says.
Today, he is a psychologist in Carmel, helping patients overcome their own disappointments. He’s also a husband and father, providing for his three children with the stability he never knew. For nine years, Kersey lived in the orphanage. He learned to drive a car and to play a trumpet there. It was, he says, the first place he ever felt secure. By their late teens, boys at the orphanage were expected to leave. Most joined the military. Kersey wanted to go to college. The parents of two friends opened their homes to Kersey, providing the opportunity to finish high school. It was while living with one of his new families that he met the man who would become his mentor. Sherwin Broersma, pastor of a Dutch Reform church in Tampa, took an interest in an orphan kid who needed a father figure. "He became a very strong model, a guiding force in my life," Kersey says. "I still use a lot of the advice he’s given me over the years in therapy with my patients." After high school, Kersey made his way to Florida State University, changing majors four times before settling on psychology. He found he enjoyed helping others work on their problems. He also was working on himself. "I washed pots and pans at a Red Lobster during summer break. I’d stand in the back, scrubbing and telling myself, ‘I’m a good person and God loves me.’"
Kersey was a transcender, the rare child who can be hit with life’s worst and still thrive. We don’t fully understand why one child when faced with abuse and neglect soars while most around him sink. But Kersey was blessed by three positives in an otherwise negative childhood. He lived in a well-run institution, where staff members took an interest in him. He found a mentor. And he developed a strong personal faith that gave him hope. "A milestone for me was the ability to forgive my parents for doing the best they knew how," he says. In his Carmel practice, Kersey teaches principles that are common to people who overcome adversity. One is to be committed to change. Another is to have faith in the process, to wait patiently while transformation takes place. He also stresses that anger and fear can be used as motivators for success. Yet success has not erased Kersey’s memories of a painful childhood. His biggest struggle, he says, is to give his children the freedom to fail, to not become overly protective because of his own experiences. One of those painful experiences motivated Kersey to complete his education. As a young man, he visited a woman he knew to ask for help in securing a job. The woman, who a few years earlier had nearly adopted Kersey, coldly rebuffed him. "I left her house, stood in the driveway and said, ‘I’ll show her,’" he says. Years later, after completing his doctorate, he sent the woman a message of thanks. "The best revenge is to be successful despite the people who let you down," he says.
Copyright (c) 1998 The Indianapolis Star - Reprinted by permission of Tim Swarens
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