Valley of Tears

An injustice brought by one’s failure to react to a situation that may have made a difference, or substantiated a change is as detrimental as an all out assault, with malice and intent.  Though the perpetrator, being fearful and weak, may find mercy, the damage stays nestled in a valley of tears;  The scars of the innocent last a lifetime.

The year was 1965 and Vacation Bible School was the order of the day.  The event promised many opportunities to earn valuable rewards… Yo-Yo’s that glowed in the dark, and Barbies, and even a fancy Barbie Car.  The rewards were to be distributed according to our participation in the VBS Outreach Program, which promoted the membership drive.  I suppose the hope was that some of the kids we invited may get their parents to attend church.  Now, I had one friend.  He was my best and only friend.  His mother worked for one of our neighbors and it was a rare occasion that we were not shooting marbles or catching crawfish in the ditch. I was attending third grade in Beaumont, TX; which was a hot spot in the civil rights struggle over segregation.  Of course, I did not know about it nor would I have cared.  I was 8 years old and playing was my predominant concern.  I never realized that there was a difference between my friend and I.  His dark skin and lovely face, topped with a wild array of beautiful black curls,  was a sight to behold, and I loved my friend.

At this time in my life, I lived with my grandmother who was the love of my life.  I remember crawling up in her lap, and knowing that I was loved, and protected, and that I mattered;  And that she was perfect.

Finally, it was Sunday. This day assured my friend and I would be the proud new owner of at least one new toy, and the probability of more, because we were on top of the board that displayed our accomplishments with shiny gold stars.  We had learned our bible verses and stayed late every day to help with cleaning chores.  Oh, this day was bigger than Christmas Morning, because we had actually seen and touched the promises.  As we quietly sat through the sermon I can remember being so happy when my friend looked at me, with tears in his eyes, as he stood up to walk that long aisle to answer the alter call.  He had heard the preacher say, “come to Jesus and be saved because God loved us so much, that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our sins.”  I watched as the preacher prayed for him and then the membership vote of acceptance, by the showing of hands, was carried out.  This was normal, but suddenly, it became strange and awkward with no hands raised and no hallelujahs shouted.  Where was my grandmother’s hand?  Did she forget that she was supposed to vote “Yea”?  Then, I watched my friend make his was back down the aisle, with tears streaming down his face and his chin quivering, because apparently, God only saved light skinned people.

The result of this experience was years of expressing anger in the form of agnosticism, and disengagement of all things demonstrative of virtue.  Since my grandmother is no longer here to defend herself, I must fairly articulate what I believe led to her actions, or non-action, in this case.  To have a better understanding, I have to remember that she loved me and she knew that I loved my friend, and that he was my first and only friend.

I was overweight and shy, the middle child of a tumultuous marriage between two teenagers from the lower social class.  My father, a hard working man, and my mother, a strikingly good looking woman who got pregnant them married at the age of 16.  You can be certain that much of her time was spent counting her mistakes, with disengagement in its truest form, at least toward me.  My brother, 16 months my senior, seemed as though everything he touched turned to gold and especially the football.  Much can be said of my sister, who is the apple of my eye, but growing up between such perfect specimens of humanity was an indicator of my many faults, shortcomings and failures, so it is no wonder that I lacked social skills.

With that being said, I repeat, she knew that he was my first and only friend.  I do not doubt her love for me and that she had often exhibited volatile protectiveness over all of her children and grandchildren.  But I also know that what she did was wrong;  Though she never admitted it.  Had she apologized, I would have forgiven her, and may have even forgiven the God who lied.

Something inherently stronger than love prevailed, and to this day I believe it was her fear of losing her place as a respected pillar of our community.  I believe that her desire for acceptance and fear of rejection substantiated her actions on that particularly dreadful Sunday, the day I first experienced hate with all that it entails, and embraced the darkness where I could navigate my rage.

I did manage to find Jesus in my late teens… No, Jesus found me!  I think that Jesus saw through the ugliness I had become, to the broken heart, and loved me into a relationship with Him.  The story of this restoration is vivid and wild, but true.  I look forward to penning it someday.

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The Wounded Child of No Regard

     He sits alone in his room.  In bitter anguish, he recalls their most recent exploits and rues the day he was born.  The agonizing banter of their scorn resounds as he curls into a fetal position that he cannot complete due to his over-sized belly.

     There is a comfort to be gained by such a disappearing act.  Silently, he cries.  The tears are inherently a private manifestation of his sadness, and a reminder of his most solemn vow;  Never again will they see him cry.  They can call him names and laugh at him, but he has learned to laugh with them.  He was only 10 years old when he realized that his tears invited heightened onslaughts of verbal attacks, producing multiplied cycles of torment… a personal assignment each tear.  He soon realized a sense of power over them as he denied them his tears, restricting their amusement by the sheer act of forced laughter.

Finally, he succumbs to slumber as he prays that tomorrow would not come; That he could escape the morning, because he would gladly trade his very breath to escape the school bell as it ushers in another day.  The days of his life have become veiled by despair, and like his own viability, seem nonexistent and void of worth.  His memory is absent of joy and happiness as he tries to recollect a smile of pride from anyone that he knows, but he cannot.

He is acutely aware of the fact that he is fat; He has been overweight for as long as he can remember.  He had been to several doctors, hoping to finding something…anything to blame, but his prognosis was “the speech” and a diet plan.  Every failed effort to circumvent the obvious was met with the cold, hard, truth;  His shame and utter blame for this condition.  He was fat, and he knew it!  Why did the kids at school feel so compelled to remind him with their sneering and name calling?

Was anybody aware of the fact that he could draw? Not even a teacher, from this present year or past, had ever commented on his artwork.  He painstakingly drew with such detail, that the final picture became a remarkable resemblance of it’s subject.  He drew people.  He drew children with bruises, mothers that frowned, and people with empty stares.  These were the people by whom he offered a glimpse of awareness of their plight and bitter familiarity of the wounds within the deepest of hearts.

He wondered if anybody knew that he collected baseball cards.   For years, he had managed a portfolio which aspired appreciation across the internet.  His online profile failed to reveal the real person at the keyboard, which worked to his advantage because online…he was sharp and savvy and popular.  He enjoyed trading online and became a worthy contender as his collection could attest.

The one thing that was sure to become common knowledge was the fact that he loved to eat.  He consumed food like an alcoholic consumes liquor.  He failed to realize that the compulsion was like using a band-aid on a slit throat.  Eating became a subconscious attempt to deaden his pain;  Pain, so profound…he feared pondering it.

His life had become despondent.  A dismal fear, held dear, with such an entangled embrace that he no longer had the fortitude to endure.  With the decision made and the method researched, his only regret was that he resented rewarding his classmates their ultimate trophy, the last laugh.  Be so as it may, on the eve of his fifteenth birthday, he ended his life.

The heartaches of the wounded children of no regard are unbearable, and it is the responsibility of every parent and teacher to teach their children to be kind to others. At every level of diversity, be it race, creed, gender, and yes, obesity, is the opportunity to expand one’s awareness of others, rewarding one another fulfillment.  It is sad that bullying has become so prevalent.  The effect of abusive words are such that the cause is lost in a society that has forgotten that charity begins at home.  Are we the resulting factor of a generation that has no basic moral standards?  Have the baby-boomers been so caught up in themselves that they failed to include “Manners 101” in the rearing of the masses?

As a society, we must commit to re-establish lines that are not to be crossed.  Children need to be taught the basic, human behavior which so necessitates kindness, one to another.  The result of casual name calling and harmful language is futile; It resembles no good thing.   More often than not, the child who bullies has his own identity issues as he seeks empowerment by exploiting the uniqueness of others and, quite frankly, is the lesser of the two and a victim, as well.

I marvel at the rhetoric pertaining to this crisis, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  we find that obesity has nearly tripled since 1980 with 17% of our young people from ages 2-19 are clinically obese.  The effect that they experience prematurely range from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, impaired glucose intolerance/Type II diabetes, pulmonary malfunctions, joint pain, fatty liver, gallstones, esophageal re-flux, and the psychological effects are tremendous.  Prevalent social and pathological disorders are associated within the realm of obese children.  Suicidal Ideation has become a notable trend among our youth.   A staggering 63% of the children who are bullied are also overweight.