When did you get the call to service?

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She handed me the note at recess.

I was 10 years old, a tiny wisp of a 5th grader. She was quiet and bookish, friendly, but with few friends.

I read the note when I got to class and felt sick – she told me that she had to reach out to somebody, that I seemed like the right person to reach out to, that I might understand. She told me that her father was abusing her. That she didn’t know what to do.

I crumpled up the note and threw it in the bottom of my backpack. I wanted it as far away from me as possible. I was angry, confused, horrified -Why are you giving me this?? I thought. I never spoke to her about it and was afraid to look her in the eyes again. I didn’t want to be the keeper of her secret.

I remembered this story last year when I attended a workshop with Rachel Naomi Remen called A Life of Service. Most of the folks in the room were medical professionals, nurses, social workers and the like.

“When did you get the call to service?” she asked.

For some, it was when they were five years old and a friend killed a beetle right in front of their eyes while they looked on in horror. For others, it was when they saw someone suffer in their lives, or discovered an injustice.

For me, it was this moment in the 5th grade.
This moment of turning my back.
This moment of not being ready to face my own darkness.

This memory has haunted me, but it has also guided the course of my life, precisely because I didn’t do the right thing.

She sensed she could trust me, that I was the right person, that I was a safe person to tell.

And she was right. I was exactly the right person. I just wasn’t ready yet.

At our 20 year reunion (years ago now) I wanted to reach out to her so badly. She arrived with an infant strapped to her body and she positively glowed. She was beautiful, confident, 3 kids in tow and a handsome, kind husband. I wanted to whisk her to the side and say, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I turned my back on you. But I was getting sick that night and I was afraid to get too close to the baby and all that I could eek out was a hello…

In my work now, I see my fierce commitment to sharing the truth, to being vulnerable and telling our stories. I wish I could go back and tell her, Yes, yes, me too. And maybe neither of us would have felt alone.

But this is not a story of regret.

It’s a story of gratitude- for I have spent my life becoming the person she sensed I was all those years ago.

 

21 Comments

  1. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    so good. so, so good.

  3. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful post. I think almost everyone has a moment in their life that they wish they had handled differently. Who we are shines at even a very young age. Glad you rose to the occasion. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and experience.

  4. wen
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    You can still tell her. :)

  5. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes. You are. And you help so many to step into that part of themselves, Andrea.

    Thank you.

  6. Posted October 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh, wow … so powerful. Of course you weren’t ready then, and of course you are ready now. Thank you for sharing. I’m seeing so much bravery posts today … it’s beautiful.

  7. Shosh
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. I love that it’s not a story of regret. I seriously need some of that kindness/gratitude.

  8. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful, powerful, vulnerable story. Thank you, Andrea, for sharing it. Sending so much love to you – then and now.

    I carry many stories deep inside, from people over the years who sensed that I was a safe person to share their burdens with. They were often hard to receive – because I did not know how to witness the stories without taking them on myself. I think about those stories often – and it reminds me to stay grounded and centered as best I can.

  9. Ym
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Andrea, beautiful!

  10. Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Believe it or not, you were that person then … she saw it. But that doesn’t mean that you were supposed to fix it … or that you are supposed to fix anything now.

    Being the person is just being you – a loving, empathetic person who sees and feels more than others.

    It is a beautiful trait … and one I think you have passed on to Ben.

    And it is also a burden … because none of us is responsible for others though we may try to help, want to fix it, etc.

  11. stacey
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    andrea, so beautiful.

  12. Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    beautiful! I bet her being able to just write that note, keeping you, a safe person, in mind as she wrote it and sharing it (no matter what you did with that) was the beginning of her healing and you were a part of that even though at the time you didn’t actually do anything. you were just there and that might just have been good enough.

  13. Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Your courage in sharing your story inspires and empowers those who hear and feel it. Thank you so much for hitting publish!

  14. Laura Case
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Love everything about your honesty and openness here. And I’m glad you’re able to see the wisdom that you were always that person all along.

  15. Marilee Pittman
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    She knows and you know. You were not ready. But this experience paved the way for your bravery.

  16. Posted October 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh my gosh, chills! And tears. I was 5 and it took me a lot longer I think to answer the call. My son was 3.5! I’m not sure he has answered yet, but oh, this story made my heart swell. Thank you.

  17. Posted October 10, 2013 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    SO beautiful. Gratitude. I love this perspective. Time to think about this some more. :) xo

  18. Carolyn
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Dear Andrea, You are so brave, and you help many people through your stories and what you share. You bring so much healing light into the world. Thank you.

  19. Posted October 10, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful posting. So much courage to tell that story. We ALL have our regrets. If you have any way to contact this woman now (email etc.), I think it would be healing for the both of you to share this with her. It is never ever too late to make a wrong right.

  20. Luna
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this is encouraging. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Posted October 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    This was hard to read. My heart ached for both of you and I found myself responding as a little girl, mother, and woman. You were brave to write about it and I’m glad you allowed us to be with you in it. Thank you for the love you have for the little girls you were and the women you have become and thank you for recognizing and speaking the truth and being who you are. Much, much love to you.

2 Trackbacks

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