People can be cruel at times, yet even in such darkness, one can find the light of love.
I felt carefree and happy on this warm summer’s day as I skipped along behind my older sister on our way to the neighborhood corner store. I didn’t mind at all that she was trying to ignore me as I enjoyed this new sense of freedom. This was the first time I was allowed to go beyond the end of our street without my mother’s protective and limiting presence. Mom was ill and had to stay in bed. She had insisted that we stay together. I saw no reason for concern. It was only a few blocks away but this errand opened more of the world to this adventurous five year old child. The world was bright and beautiful to me. I smiled each time my sister looked back at me with a frown for having to take me along.
My sister stopped to take my arm and walked beside me as we passed a group of kids crowded around something in the alleyway. Several were jeering and chanting as they surrounded a little boy that I knew. He lived down the street from us. He was in tears and begging them to leave him alone as they shoved him around from one to another. I tugged on my sister’s arm, pleading for her to stop. She did but then shook her head when I tried to go to my friend. We hung back from the group to see what was happening.
“No, don’t do that!” my friend cried out and I could hear his chocked sobs as the others laughed.
My sister grabbed my shoulder as I tried to move forward to help my friend. I wrenched away from her hold and pushed my way between the bodies that were blocking me from seeing what was going on. I saw my friend’s cat tied upon a large concrete block and my friend was being held now by several of the bigger kids. One of the bullies there had another block lifted over his head. I stood horrified, unable to move or look away in the brief second before impact. The cat’s screech of death would haunt me for a long time. The others then released my friend and he crumbled to the ground with great, racking sobs. I ran to his side, ignoring the laughter and shouts of the children as they moved away to find other sport. I held my friend and looked to my sister. Her face was dark and threatening as she glared after the violent group. Then she came to my side and helped us up.
“I’ll take care of this.” She spoke softly and touched the boy’s arm. “My sister will take you home.”
I opened my mouth to ask her what she was going to do but she shook her head at me. Lifting her arm, she signaled me to go. The look in her eyes scared me and I quickly moved to obey. I kept my arms around my friend as we walked what now seemed a long ways back to our street. I realized that I was alone with my friend and felt pride that my sister had allowed me such a responsibility. I shoved my fear and anger aside because I had to be a big girl to help my friend.
He started wailing his grief again when we came into his yard. His mother came running out of the house as he ran up the porch steps and buried his head against her legs. She lifted him into her arms and hurried inside the house, leaving me standing there. I ached to say or do something but I had no idea what. I walked home alone.
My own kitty came running to sit on my lap when I sat down on our porch steps to stare at what was now a dark and frightening world. Fat tears rolled silently down my cheeks as I stroked her soft fur. I could still see the bloody horror of my friend’s dead cat and dared not close my eyes, somehow knowing that this would make it all the more real. I snuggled my face against the soft warmth of my dearest friend and she purred. I knew then what to do. I trembled and a sob choked my throat. Mopping the tears from my face and taking great gulps of air to calm myself, I stood and carried her with me down the street to my friend.
I could feel my heart breaking as I slowly climbed the stairs to his porch and knocked on their front door. I could hear him inside and his cries echoed all around me. I took another deep breath to calm myself and stood a bit taller as I knocked again. I heard his mother coming and swallowed hard against the lump in my throat so I could talk.
“Thank you for bringing my boy home,” she said with a sad smile as she stepped out onto the porch with me. Looking at what I was carrying, she asked, “What have you there?”
“My Taffy,” I answered and clutched my calico pet closer even as I spoke with a shaking voice, “I want to give her to him.”
She knelt down beside me to place one hand on my shoulder as she stroked the soft fur of my curious girl. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and smiled.
“We’ll get him another friend to hold, don’t you worry,” she murmured as she patted my back then kissed my cheek, “You have a very big heart child. You just see to it that the world never takes that away from you!”
Giving me a quick hug, she turned to go back into her house to answer her son’s mournful cries. I realized that I had been holding my breath and slowly let it out. I don’t know how long I continued to stand there staring at the now closed door, trying to make sense of a world I could not understand. Her words echoed in my mind as I slowly turned to go back home. They have remained with me every since.
I found my sister in the kitchen, washing dirt and blood off her hands. I stood silently watching her. I saw bruises on her face and arms and gave her a questioning look when she turned to dry her hands. Reaching to me with a smile, she ruffled my hair then grabbed the sugar bowl from the table.
“Rhubarb!” she cried and charged out the back door to mom’s garden. Smiling again now, I ran after her.
I have learned many methods over the years since to keep my heart open to the wonder of life and to others. Despite the darker realities that life sometimes presents, the world is still bright and beautiful to me. This gift has given me an inner joy and peace that I try to pass on to others. It is one that can help us all through the difficult times. Stay true to the heart of your child. Have courage and faith. Help another. Find your smile. Rhubarb anyone?
Compassion ~ a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.