Conversation between Vicbowin and me as she leaves for school:
"Have a good day! I love you baby girl." I wave at her retreating bicycle.
"Love you too Mom." She hollers back.
"Be safe, and don't talk to anyone."
"I know." Her voice is controlled patience.
"And don't get in anybodies car, no matter what they say!" I shout at the last minute... just in case.
"Moooooom!" Her patience is lost and she mutters imprecations under her breath. She hates it when I talk like that.
The truth of the matter is I'm terrified I'll never see my children again and I have good reason, when I was thirteen I knew a girl who was kidnapped and murdered.
There... I said it and now you know.
It's not really one of those things I dwell on, but as the children get closer and closer to her age I can't help but pray that they will never meet her fate. Her name was Jeralee Underwood and I had known her family my entire life. I was in the same grade as her brother, I went to church with her Aunt and Uncle, I had played with her when we were little.
Her abduction was one of the most shocking and devastating things to happen in my young life. I won't go into details about those dark days but if you are morbidly curious you can go here to find out more.
What I will tell you is that this single act of violence perpetrated upon a sometimes acquaintance of mine has affected the very fiber of my parental structure.
We, as human beings, think that our actions have no effect on those around us, but I can tell you this sort of thinking is wrong and hurtful.
Now, I'll grant that Jeralee's story is an extreme case, but the concept is the same.
Selfish acts are not private acts. They are public and their ramifications can last for generations.
For reasons not connected with Jeralee, this week has been difficult for me and my siblings. And all that has happened of recent has led my mind back to the difficulties of my childhood, which were many, and I have begun to wonder to myself when the pain will ever end.
And then as I watch my daughter leave for school, and fear for her, I realize that the pain doesn't end.
I remember what a counselor told me years ago. "The pain doesn't go away. It never will. It's like a big ball that takes up your whole being, but as time goes by it grows smaller and smaller and becomes only a tiny thing in the back of your mind."
So, then, the reality sets in. My pain will never leave me. I am stuck with it. It is mine and will be mine for the rest of my sojourn upon this Earth.
This could be a rather depressing thought if I didn't realize that I have the power to make a difference for the next generation.
I read in a book once that we are all given the opportunity to choose and yet sometimes the choices of those around us can cause us extreme sorrow. We may feel as if our choice has been taken from us, but it hasn't. It is still within us to decide how to react and how to move on.
When Jeralee's parents were interviewed, after her killer was arrested, a reporter asked if they had anything to say to the man. I remember so clearly in my mind how much I wanted them to ask 'Why!!!!?' But they taught me a lesson that day. They taught me that even through the most horrendous pain imaginable they could choose the higher path.
I choose not to allow my pain to overtake me. I choose not to allow a childhood that no one deserves destroy who I am. I choose to give my children better than I had. I choose to let my kids ride their bikes to school, even when it tears my guts into a thousand pieces, because I choose to not burden them with my pain.
I choose to be the difference.
What do you choose?