Friday, November 7, 2014

Gratitude for the Anonymous

'Tis the season, let tidings of gratitude be flung across Facebook for the duration of a month! We can sink back into the comfortable shoes of an ingrate quickly enough, but for now, let's enjoy all things pumpkin. In seriousness though, my mind has been fluttering back and forth over the seasons I've walked through, and recalling the things I am authentically thankful for. As fate would have it, I recently viewed the glaringly raw documentary, Private Violence. I watched in shock, disbelief, sorrow, and eventually pride in the young woman whose story was largely featured. I might also add that one of my phenomenally talented cousins had a hand in the production of this film. At some point, I hope to have evidence that I was able to dip into the ancient, familial well that has propelled such excellence in so many. But back to the story... Upon the conclusion, I was gently reminded that an experience in my younger years could have pushed me down a path that may have spiraled into something nasty, yet I was spared. Imagine being the bright-eyed new girl in school, freshly 15, and overwhelmed at being the center of someone's attention. While I had been on a couple of dates before, they were in group settings and nothing more than Opryland or the movies. (Yes, I said Opryland.) The boy who had centered in on me was a year older, on the basketball team, had his own truck, and was seemingly decent enough. He asked me out, met my parents, and then he decided that we should be exclusive after a couple of days...ridiculous! I was SO GREEN though, and wouldn't have seen the dang forest for the trees while wearing camouflage to match! I just went along with it. However, I began to feel smothered by him and was quickly losing interest. I called him one night and told him that I thought it might be a good idea if we backed down a bit. He didn't take it well. He informed me that he had a 12 gauge in the back of his truck and that he knew where I lived. That he would make my life miserable if I broke up with him. I was immediately horrified and shocked. I didn't even know how to respond to such a thing, so I didn't stand my ground. I mean, I really thought he might try to kill me! This farce continued for approximately 2 weeks before I brought it up to one of my new friends. I did it in a roundabout way and started out by asking questions about this boy, and wondering if anyone else ever had problems with him. My friend then began to ask me questions, and I spilled. This person was so incensed, that they brought over 2 of their good friends who happened to be large, senior ball players. They introduced me to the one I didn't know, and then asked me to retell what I had just shared. I've never seen people run to my aid faster than those 2 gentlemen did. Yes, they were only 18 years old at the time, but they were authentic gentlemen to me. By the end of that day, they got the boy who had been threatening me and brought him into a hallway where they stood on either side of him and told him that he would never touch me, talk to me, or threaten me again. I had the privilege of watching this happen, and then idiot boy offered me an apology for what he had done. I was accompanied to all of my classes for an additional week before they felt it was alright to let me walk on my own. Innumerable waves of validation and relief washed over me in an instant, and fear of the unknown was immediately gone. I ended up dating one of my heroes, and he treated me like a lady every time I was in his company. From that episode, I learned that it would have been OK to stand up for myself without feeling like I had no options. I learned that there are good people who will get involved if you will only tell someone. I also discovered that I was not a door mat, and I NEVER let anyone even come close to treating me that way again. Clearly, the experience left an indelible mark, but it's not something I really thought about until watching the documentary. I literally shudder to think how differently I could have turned out in regard to my sense of personal value, had someone not stood up for me. I am indebted to my gentlemen friends who rescued me when I didn't see a way out. While this story is but a minuscule example of a situation that had the potential to end horribly, it didn't because 2 people had enough moral fortitude to thwart the efforts of a relative stranger's oppressor. To my lady readers - you are more valuable than the stars, your worth was strung across the skies from the beginning of time. If you need help, SAY SOMETHING, TELL SOMEONE, TELL ME!!! Girls, if your friend is in a nasty dating/marriage relationship, seek help on their behalf, they will thank you at some point down the road. To my dude readers - you can be a person of valor, you have enough courage to stand up and help someone, but God help you if you're an oppressor or abuser. Justice will be meted out and you don't want to be on the receiving end of it. Be a man, not a freakin' tantrum throwing loser. Respect will open doors for you that you could never imagine, try using it. To my formerly 18-year-old knights in shining armor - Thank you. I know I said it back then, but I mean it even more heartily now. Your parents raised fine men in the both of you, and I can only assume that you are doing the same thing now. I don't know where you are, but this mama of a young daughter appreciates what you did. Your willingness to step in for me had a lasting effect, and it will shape how I talk to her as she continues to grow. Words are not enough, but one more time, thank you.

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