|Ray and Monica in 1982|
- Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Intuition is your best friend; nurture it,
develop it, embrace it, listen to it, trust it.
It has been about of 31 years since an incident happened outside of my high school, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. My husband (then boyfriend) was with me and I know he remembers it as vividly as I do. This incident was seared into our brains, our hearts, and our souls forever.
Being 3 1/2 years older than me, my husband, Ray, used to come to my high school and take me to lunch every day. After lunch we would wait outside the school until the bell rang for the kids to go back to class, then he would go back to work or home, depending on the day. One day while we waited with a small group of high school kids, some boys came up behind another boy and very violently pushed him to the ground. When I say violently, I mean violently! I had never seen anyone get shoved like that before. His books and papers went flying as he lunged forward before hitting the ground. This boy was very thin and frail, kept to himself and would never harm a flea. He was not someone who hung out with the cool kids. He was an easy target. The boys that pushed him laughed and laughed at their accomplishment. They were not hanging out with the cool kids either. They appeared to have lived rough lives already at their young age. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I witnessed their bullying if they were bullied at home. What else would cause them to act out in this way against an innocent person? Everyone standing there turned in that direction and looked on as the innocent boy got up and picked up his books and papers. The look on his face was heartbreaking. He was stunned, scared, humiliated and trying not to show any of it, but it was written all over him. He sort of laughed a nervous laugh, as if to say, “You got me, Guys! Ha ha, good one;” trying to break the nervous tension, I guess. No one said a word except the boys who pushed him. They were making fun of him. It was a disgusting display. I have no doubt that everyone in that crowd was glad it was over. I know I was!
Suddenly, as we all stood there waiting for the bell, BAM! It happened again, exactly the same way it had happened three minutes earlier. The violent push, the books and papers flying, the innocent harmless boy hitting the ground, the bullies laughing, the crowd turning to witness his humiliation, the nervous laughter with a hint of tears…. Again. This time, the look on his face was almost more than I could bear. I wanted to beat the hell out of those boys for their cruelty. I wondered what the people in the crowd were thinking. Were they feeling the same horrible feelings I was feeling? I know Ray did. Ray and I looked at each other with sympathy for the boy, but also knowing the possible consequences of our taking any action. I wanted to rush to that innocent boy and help him up, help him pick up his things and tell him it would be okay. I wanted him to know that no one was judging him and that we were all judging the bullies as monsters. I wanted so badly to protect him and scold those boys. I did none of those things. No one in that crowd did any of those things. I stood there wondering why no one... why I did not help that boy. I believe now, after these many years, that everyone in that crowd wanted to do the same things I wanted, but fear won. We each had our own fears. Mine was fear of humiliation for myself, fear of what would happen if Ray got involved, fear of being attacked.
This story is horrible, but it’s not finished.
The violent shove, the books and papers flying, the boy lunging helplessly forward and hitting the ground, the cruel laughter, the humiliation, picking up his things slower now because he is almost completely defeated, the crowd turning (although fewer of them turning this time. Can they not bear to see him this way again? Are they trying to lessen his humiliation by not looking?), the look of horror now on his face, he is almost in tears now, no nervous laughter this time, as he scans the faces in the crowd as if silently begging someone to help. I could not believe it had happened AGAIN! Now you probably think that after the third time one of us would have been moved into action. I am ashamed to say you would be wrong. This entire time there was a battle going on inside of me between my ego devil and my angel conscience. After the third incident the battle went something like this:
Oh, my God! That poor boy! When will this stop? Three times, for god sakes! He does not deserve to be treated like that. Walk over there and help him pick up his things. Then he will know someone cares.
I could be their next victim. Do I want that? Do I want this crowd witnessing me hitting the ground? Ray will support me so that won’t happen, but he could end up fighting with those boys. He is older than all of us and he might end up beating their asses and end up in jail.
It won’t necessarily go that way. If I say something the crowd will get involved and then maybe the bullies will be forced to leave. The innocent boy will feel better knowing that people care. Don’t act like you don’t care, Monica! I would want someone to step in and help me! Look at him, he needs me. Walk over there. Tell the bullies they look like idiots. Tell them to leave him alone. Say something!
What if the crowd remains scared and just stands there? What if the bullies come after me? It’s possible they might. Surely they wouldn’t! They might! I didn’t think they would shove him a third time, but they did! Then Ray will get involved and I know he will beat their asses! Do I want my boyfriend to go to jail?
Just do something!
There will be consequences! Maybe someone else will speak up for that boy. Come on, somebody say something so I won’t have to!
What if they don’t? No one has done it so far! Have a heart, don’t be afraid! I know it is the right thing to do.
The bell is going to ring any second. Just keep my mouth shut.
That boy needs me, someone, anyone! What if it happens again? I was shocked the second time and it happened a third time. It could happen again! Then am I just going to stand here? Have I no conscience? Go to him and show him someone cares!
Thank God, there’s the bell! Say goodbye to Ray and head to class. I’m off the hook.
I feel ashamed. I let that boy down. I have failed as a human being.
The good deed had been left undone. Our fate was sealed.
We all felt horrible for the innocent boy that day, but not one of us allowed him to receive grace by showing him mercy. Was it the bullies’ responsibility to show him mercy? Yes, but it was also ours. No words can describe the sorrow I have felt all these years wondering why I did not have the courage to help him and wondering how that day affected the rest of that boy’s life. It makes me sick to think about it. My 48-year-old-self knows the good deed would have been so simple and that the bullies would have stopped. They would not have attacked me. Ray would have made sure of that and his getting involved would not have led him to jail. Those bullies would have taken one look at him and walked away, or at the very least would have kept quiet. The innocent boy would have been shown love, compassion, support. He would have known that he mattered to people other than just his family. It has been 31 years and I still sit here crying for him. My 17-year-old-self could not see around the corner and the unknowns were too much to allow me to set aside my fear. We see clearly with hindsight and with experience. All I can do now is make better decisions; decisions not based in fear, but in love and compassion.
Karma is a creative force. We can never really know if a life event is the direct cause of a specific choice made long ago, but it makes me wonder if the seed of Joshua’s future was born that day. Several years after that incident, Ray and I would marry and in another year after that we would be expecting a child; a special, vulnerable child, in constant need of protection; a child in need of an advocate; a child in need of someone who would
I don’t believe karma punishes. I believe it teaches. We felt compassion for that boy that day, but we chose not to show it. It does not matter that I was fearful for myself and for Ray’s future. It only matters that I did not trust my inner angel, my intuition, my conscience. I turned a deaf ear to The Creative Force of Love’s call. Was the result a lesson plan formed because of my choices? It sure seems that way. It is grace, undeserved, that allows me to look back now and understand this lesson. Through grace, I get another chance to make it right with my own son. Every attempt I make to protect my son is atonement for my past mistake. Maybe this mistake is the reason for my fears over his vulnerability. I have seen how cruel the world can be and, in the past, I did nothing to stop its cruelty. It is grace that allows me to write this blog for you to read and maybe, just maybe you will remember this story when you need the courage to show the compassion you feel in your heart. I hope so. Every time I hear of someone standing up for a vulnerable person like my son and that boy, I thank the person who rose up with courage. I don't thank them just for me and Josh, I thank them for that innocent boy from 31 years ago and for his mother. I thank them because I want them to know that it didn't just mean something to the person they helped, but to our society.
I am truly and deeply sorry I did not stand up for him that day; not because of karma, but because it would have been the right thing to do. I let fear beat compassion. Many times over the years I have wondered where he is and how his life turned out. I have prayed that he has been okay. I now understand with all my heart and soul what my silence cost him and his mother that day. I beg his forgiveness. I promise that I will never keep quiet again. In the end, our task is not to dwell in the past and remain stuck there, but to learn from it and move forward.
What actions can you see from your past that may be showing a result in your life today? I would love to hear your stories of fear, courage and karma. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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