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She couldn’t be a mom, so she became a mentor

Anca Wass is an accomplished woman. At age 42, she has a good job as an engineer, and a fine home with her husband of 11 years. But she feels like a shadow, because she cannot have children.“A childless woman is like a shadow — you may or may not notice it on the wall,” Wass wrote to the “Everyone Has a Story” series hosted by TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. “It doesn't hav
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Anca Wass is an accomplished woman. At age 42, she has a good job as an engineer, and a fine home with her husband of 11 years. But she feels like a shadow, because she cannot have children.

“A childless woman is like a shadow — you may or may not notice it on the wall,” Wass wrote to the “Everyone Has a Story” series hosted by TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. “It doesn't have a shape nor does it make a sound, and it disappears in the night like it never existed.”

She has lost friends when they became mothers and no longer had anything to talk to her about. “I understood their joy, but they never made an effort to understand my sorrow,” she said.

Wass came out of the shadows Thursday to tell Gifford and Kotb how she has found fulfillment by becoming a mentor to a 10-year-old boy near her home town of Owens Cross Roads, Ala. She has even gone back to school to get a teaching degree, the better to help the children she can’t have herself.

“I now know this will be my salvation as I will be able to save and be saved,” Wass said in her essay. “I will be able to mold minds into becoming the best they can become, while I can cheer their accomplishments from the bleachers while their mothers beam with the pride, rightfully deserving it.”

Wass used her moment in the spotlight to issue a plea to other women without children to join her in becoming a mentor. “Please don't think your lives are worthless,” she wrote. “Find your own path to happiness, join the sisterhood of the traveling childless women.”

To Gifford and Kotb, she said, “If after this program people will give more thought to mentoring, I think it would be great. Please be a mentor.”

Wass is a native of Romania who emigrated to the United States in 1997. The boy she meets with once a week to mentor is from Puerto Rico. He has seven siblings, but lives with one brother with his grandparents.

Wass said she believes she and the boy have a special connection, because both are immigrants. Before she left to come to New York, she said, “He said, ‘I love you.’ It was the first time he said, ‘I love you,’ and I was really, really touched. He’s my little boy … I think we truly are made for each other. ”

When Wass was done telling her story, singer Julia Murney serenaded Wass and her friend, Cristina Bratu, with a song, “I Am the Woman,” written for her by Gifford and her collaborator, David Friedman. The lyrics to the soulful tune were taken from Wass’s essay:

I am the woman that nobody sees

A shadow on the wall

A soundless song that nobody hears

From the empty apartment at the end of the hall.

The song ends with the hope that Wass found in mentoring:

I understand your joy

Won't you understand my sorrow?

I am the woman that nobody knows

Who won't be reconciled.

Wass listened with misty eyes. “That was just beautiful,” she said when it was over.

Wass is the third person featured in the “Everyone Has a Story” series, which will continue for five more weeks. Like those who preceded her, Wass was presented with gifts tailored especially for her: Gifford and Kotb arranged for the boy Wass mentors to attend a one-week space camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. The center will also welcome Wass for a special week designed for educators.

“He is waiting for me tomorrow,” Wass said as she looked through a basket of goodies she was given to share with her charge. “I promised I would be coming and visiting him.”