Monday, January 28, 2019

A Dark Secret From the Past Is Revealed

Last night was what I would usually consider a pretty fun night. I had been to the Par-A-Dice Casino in the afternoon to play poker, but after two hours of being card dead (following a first hand double up plus), I decided to drive home and not worry about fighting a little snow that was forecast for the late evening. I picked up some barbecued chicken from my favorite place in town and some Taco Bell for my daughter, headed home, and then saw that the end to The Godfather was on AMC. It was followed by The Godfather II, another one of my all-time favorite movies. As The Godfather II was nearing an end, I was pretty tired and drifted off to sleep.

With the television on and my night light still on, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning. I looked at my cell phone and saw that someone had left me a message. I was surprised to discover that the private message was from someone I had not seen since high school. She had sent me a friend request a year or two ago, and had commented on one of my Facebook posts dealing with one of my trips. That had been the extent of our contact since we graduated from high school. I was saddened to read the message that she wrote:

Hi lightning: Not sure if you remember me,  but you knew me as Joanie back in school.  I wanted to thank you for your friendship and acceptance of me back then.  I was quite the mess.  What you didn't know was that all through my growing up years,  my siblings and I were being physically, sexually,  and emotionally abused.  Your kindness to me helped keep me from committing suicide all those years ago.  I wanted to thank you for that.

Now it's not like I was any type of hero or anything. I met Joanie (not her real name) when I began my freshman year of high school. We were in the same homeroom. The thing that stood out most about Joanie was her size. She was big -- really big. I wasn't really fast friends with her, but rather was an acquaintance. She always seemed to have a cheery personality and got along well in school. Although extremely large people can be ostracized in school, I don't believe that ever happened to her.

When she sent me a friend request on Facebook, I was quite surprised. She had changed her first name, and I had wondered why. I looked at some of her posts and pictures (my kids would saying that I was "creeping" on her!), saw that she had lost a lot of weight, and appeared to be married and have a couple of kids. It looked like she was leading a great life, which, of course, made me happy.

I am guessing that she changed  her first name to symbolically get away from the pain she had growing up. And back in high school, I and likely most others had no idea of the struggles that she had gone through. I just felt really bad as I have always thought that I lived a pretty good life and didn't face challenges that some people have had to face.

My guess is that Joanie is sending the same message to several of our old high school classmates who were nice to her and just treated her like everyone else when she was going through such turmoil and was an easy target because of her weight. Maybe it is part of ongoing healing for her. I certainly give her major props for living through a hellish life and becoming a happy, fulfilled adult.

If there was any lesson I had reinforced early this morning, it is this: Be careful about the assumptions you make about people, for you may have no idea of the conditions under which they live and have no control. And treat people with kindness as much as possible, for you never know when a friendly smile, an offer to help, or even just  random regular behavior may be things that help someone out when they are at their lowest point and their life could radically change one way or another.

Epilog: I responded to Joanie and received the following reply:

Thanks,  lightning.  It took me until my mid-30s to truly start putting it all together.  I vowed as a child that I wasn't going to be my parents.  Resiliency is key: it can be learned,  but seems to be more an innate trail.  My youngest sister and I made it,  but my other sister and youngest brother did not.

Thanks for reading.


Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Wow, great post. Good to hear she made it through.

5:28 PM  
Blogger JT88Keys said...

I preach to the high school kids I work with to be kind to everyone for this very reason. Each year at the start of the season I share Shane Koyczan's YouTube video called "To This Day." It's a powerful commentary on the impact a few simple words can have on kids.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Johnny O said...

Wow, what a great post. I enjoy the poker rehashing, but this is a real message on how to live life and treat others. Thanks.

11:42 AM  

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