Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Her Story

Special thank you to Lisa Kost and her granddaughter, Bella, for the beautiful artwork.

I had a student ask me if I had been drinking. Um, no, this is just how I am. I had another suggest that I was all over the place, a huge fan of tangents, and not at all easy to follow. If you don’t know me, I can come across as scattered, flighty, a bit unbalanced, distracted by glitter and all things that sparkle. If you know me, you know that I am focused, driven, a woman on a mission. You know that I am determined in my efforts to motivate, move, encourage, inspire. You know that I believe we are all interconnected and that, to benefit oneself, it is necessary to benefit the whole. To benefit the whole, in turn, it is necessary to fully develop and throw out to the world everything one has to offer. It works like that, like a circle, like one big, beautiful circle. My goals are simple and deliberate. My methods are not always pretty.

I am distracted now once again. I intended to write in a different direction. I sat down to put other words to print, but I heard a story today that I need to address. An acquaintance shared her childhood with me. She told me of a mother who didn’t realize she was pregnant, a mother who drank and partied and ignored the baby once that baby came. This young woman in front of me told of loving grandparents who would arrive at the house to pick her up only to have to wait and wait until the mother had eeked out chore after chore after chore from her child, good enough never being good enough. The grandparents called this young woman princess, adored her, doted on her. The mother, jealous of the grandparents’ attention, called the young woman Cinderella and treated her as such. The young woman was eleven and was not allowed to have food. She shared with me that she would sneak a handful of dog food on her way to bed. She would eat the dog food so that she wouldn’t be hungry at school the next day. The mother did not give her breakfast and would reprimand her horribly if she discovered her daughter taking the kibble from the dog’s dish. The young woman ate dog food so that she wouldn’t be hungry at school. She ate dog food. I couldn’t hear anymore. Some words just don’t fit into the ears, at least not without significant pain upon the heart. How do we let this happen? How do we allow this sort of “parenting” to exist?

I am vegan. I’m sure you know this. I believe in peace and love and compassion toward all creatures. I fall short, I do, but I do my best to live a kind and gentle life. I shop for shampoo, for soap, for cleaning products that have not been tested on animals. I avoid leather and wool and silk. I don’t eat honey. Bees are sometimes harmed in the process of getting the honey. Besides, they make it for themselves, not for me. I am careful to consider all creatures in my decisions, to consider the impact that I have on the lives of those with whom I share this earth.

And, yet, here is a woman standing in front of me whose brain, according to the doctors, failed to develop properly because of ridiculously poor nutrition. I am worried about shampoo, and this woman stands in front of me. Her grandparents and her father knew what her mother was doing. They would sneak Little Debbie Snack Cakes under her pillow so that her mother would not know, so the child would not be physically beaten for having food. If the young woman was lucky, she shared with me, she would find some Little Debbie’s under her pillow when she went to bed. If she was lucky.

I don’t really know what to do with this information. Yes. I am scattered and flighty and a bit of a bubblehead, but I absolutely believe that this sort of thing should not exist. I absolutely believe that no child should ever have to eat dog food or rely on morsels sneaked under the pillow for sustenance. Some children are hungry because there is no food. Some children, I know now, are hungry because they are not allowed the food that is there.

After I heard this story, I had to walk. Walking and writing are my ways of clearing my head. I strapped on my Vibrams and headed out into the woods for a nice long walk among the grasshoppers and hawks and wild turkey. My husband is out of town, so after this beautiful walk I treated my daughter to dinner out. I stuffed myself on some pasta marinara with a nice house salad. When I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine, lit some candles, and sat at the computer for a little Facebook chat. I cannot get this woman out of my head. I cannot erase her story from my heart.

And, so I write. I write to share her story, to move those who might be moved, to encourage another who is in a position to help. I write to suggest that it is not about the career or the paycheck or the position or the house or the cars or the vacations. It is about making a positive difference in the life of a child. It is about that circle of I care for you, you care for me, we are the same, we love and care for each other. I stuffed myself on pasta. I will go to bed uncomfortable because I have too much, while she went to bed uncomfortable because she had too little.

I am distracted again. I cannot be comfortable with myself and with my life while I know that a child is going hungry, while I know that a child is being neglected or abused, hoping on every hope that there is a bit of food under her pillow when she goes to bed. I cannot be comfortable with my life of so much while I know that a child goes to sleep tonight with nothing more than a handful of dog food to comfort her and to sustain her until the next. I cannot. I just cannot.


  1. opening paragraph and paragraph about being vegan don't work for me in this. Make it about the girl and what she told you, not who you are and why it's offensive. We are all offended by this and horrified, regardless of whether we are vegan, carnivores, scattered virgos or straight shooting saggs.This is an important piece. We live in pillows mostly. Things are soft around us. We need to hear this! you have multiple pieces here, all good ones.

  2. When I can get the tears out of my eyes I might have a few minor corrections, but the impact is there.

  3. I have the best editor and writer friends ever. Thank you both for looking at this. I just had to get this on the page and could not for the life of me edit any further. I was a mess. An absolute mess. Give me a couple days, and I'll come back to it. Have to remove myself a little.