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Archive for February 21st, 2008

Girls on path (c) Lynda BernhardtI once told my therapist that my entire childhood was pure h@#$. He said that could not be true because, if it was, then I would not be the person that I am today. He said that while I definitely endured some horrendous trauma, I also experienced some good during my childhood. If I had never received love from anywhere, then I never would have learned how to love.

I had a hard time believing his words at the time, but I have come to see the truth in them. One of the blessings of recovering childhood memories has been recovering some very good ones. Not every minute of my childhood was bad. In fact, I have many good memories. No, the good times did not outweigh the bad stuff, but they did help shape me into the compassionate person that I am today.

What helped me to see that others really did care was reading Jonathan Kellerman’s Billy Straight. Billy is a kid who flees an abusive household and lives on the streets. He encounters all sorts of terrible things, including witnessing a murder and narrowly escaping being raped by an older couple. He feels all alone in the world.

However, Billy is not all alone. The librarian notices that he steals and then returns library books (He had no home address to check out a library book), but she pretends not to notice and allows him to stay in the warmth of the library as long as he likes. The man at the hot dog stand pretends not to notice when Billy steals hot dogs off his stand and even leaves him choice food to take. Throughout the book, while Billy feels all alone, strangers notice him and show him compassion in ways that he never sees.

How many people did that for me? Was it just a coincidence that my preschool teacher took me under her wing? Why did the librarian loan me her own personal copy of a dog-training book when the elementary school library did not have one? Why did the police officer approach my sister and me, offering to protect us if we had the courage to tell what was happening behind closed doors? People noticed, and they tried to reach out. I just didn’t see it.

I have been in the same position as an adult. I know a young child who I suspect is being sexually abused. I have no proof, only my intuition that recognizes the red flags. She will never know that I called Social Services to report my concerns, only to be told that I did not present enough evidence for them to do anything. She does not know that others have tried to protect her as well, doing all they can within an imperfect system. All I can do is give her hugs when I see her and let her know that somebody sees her as precious. If I am correct about my suspicions, I hope that the love I invest in her in the brief encounters we have will be enough compassion for her grow into a loving person like I did.

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Lynda Bernhardt

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