February 22, 2013

Get up, Stand up...

Today Thing One did the most incredible thing. He stood up for someone that could not stand up for himself.  We were walking to have food at our local McDonald's.  We passed by the front of Target to get to McDonald's and a homeless man crossed our path to get to the popcorn in the trash can and proceeded to eat it. Thing One stopped in his tracks and whispered to me "Mommy he's eating from the trash!?".  I had to explain to him how not everyone has food or money to buy food so they eat where they can.  He asked if we could buy him some food.  I was so proud of him.  We bought the man some food and went about our business.  I couldn't stop thinking of the marvelous thing my little guy had thought to do.

Thing One reminded me that we as humans need to watch out for each others as humans.  It's a golden rule that Sarge had taught me. Unfortunately I couldn't see all the signs while I was growing up.  I say that with a heavy heart.  I faltered another human being at one point in my life.

I was in 5th grade in 1982 and inside I still felt like a big goof.  The dork in me was alive and well and preteens were the pits.  My body was that of a teenager more than a preteen, all kinds of awkward.  At least that is how I recall it.  I was lucky enough to have a father who recognized the signs and told me I was beautiful as I was.  Still, trying to fit in was all I wanted to do.  Subsequently I hung out with other girls I thought were cool and accepted me into their group.  It's a story that rings true for every insecure preteen trying to find there way in a clique or a group of peers.  What I didn't expect was that one girl in particular was a mean girl.

Like I mentioned earlier I had a particularly good support from my family, so her nastiness didn't get to me.  I knew how to defend myself from any little snippy comment.  Mostly I dealt with it out by being humorous. Unfortunately we all couldn't escape her.  There was one girl named Gloria that we had all grown up with.  None of us really befriended her in all the years we had been in school with her.  Gloria lived one street over from where I lived and I saw where she was living.  It was a very un-kept home and the house reflected how everyone in that family where.  Gloria often looked like she hadn't been bathed in some time and her clothing for two days was the same.  I mostly feared her, the unknown of her.  I never really addressed her and let her be.  Unfortunately Gloria met up with mean girl in the same class for 5th grade.  I was in the same class and I hung out with mean girl along with other girls.  Gloria was afraid of mean girl and the Mean girl fed off this fear.

Gloria was often subject of many of Mean girl's cruel jokes.  One day Mean girl threatened Gloria to do something. She forced Gloria to go to the restroom and take off her training bra and when she got back from the bathroom she was to hang it on the classroom door knob. Gloria did it and Mean girl laughed and had everyone in the classroom look at the door.  Laughter broke out.  I couldn't laugh. I smiled nervously, unsure if I should show my true feelings.  Inside I felt so bad for Gloria and the humiliation she was going through. Unfortunately me need to fit in outweighed what empathy I was feeling for Gloria. 

It has been 31 years since that incident and I replay that scenario in my head a lot.  Why didn't I have the courage to stand up for Gloria?  Maybe we wouldn't be best friends, but she needed someone to stand up for her.  I have often thought of how Gloria is doing and if someone had the courage to stand up for her.  I never saw her with a father, just a mother and some siblings.  I never got to know why she looked the way she did.  Her family probably didn't have the resources for food, clothing, or hygiene.  After 6th grade when we all went to different Junior High's I never saw her again.

While I may not have seen her since 6th grade she is forever burned in my memory.  Anytime I see someone being picked on, someone with no support I try to stand up for them.  No one knows their story, no one knows how much their heart hurts.  It takes two minutes of a kind word and gesture to make someone's day.  I see Gloria in every person I try to stand up for her because as a cowardly 5th grader I couldn't. 

I am proud of Thing One, he did it without a thought.  He empathized, he stood up for those that cannot stand up for themselves. He is five years old and wiser than I could have ever been at his age. 

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