During freedom-filled days of my summer childhood, I watched her work on those flower-children of hers. I wondered how she could be surrounded by beauty, yet be so mean. Every time a neighborhood child would ride their bikes, or walk by her front yard, she would yell and shake her fist. On several occasions she actually threw the limp weeds she had just pulled at them.
Of course she had reason too. We were snots. Laughing we would taunt her verbally. I don't remember the words, but I certainly remember the reason. Evil as this sounds, I did it belong. Somewhere in a dark corner of my soul, I relished creating crafty words to cause pain. Even after lectures and one spanking, I was drawn to help in the torture of this woman.
I made up excuses. She was mean, she was crazy, and she was old. My associates and I, would huddle at the end of the street comparing stories, bolstering each other's confidence in what we were doing. Until the day came she shocked me.
One little girl in our group was just learning how to ride her bike and went off the curb in front of the old woman's house, right into the path of a car. I watched in horror as the impact threw her into the air and she landed with a horrific thud in the street. This of course was before the days of cell phones. That old woman moved with a speed that I had no idea she had. She knelt by the side of the little girl, crooning soothing words, gentle hands checking her injuries, then barking directions to the distraught driver of the car to go into her house and call an ambulance.
She cradled the crying child until the ambulance arrived. I would learn later she was a retired nurse. Through it all she gave love and comfort to a child that just moments before had been taunting her. I would like to say there was a fairytale ending, but real life doesn't work that way. I did learn a Life Lesson though and can say it changed me.
No longer did I join my friends in taunting her. It was the first time I understood the pain suffered on both sides by words. I recognized that we had created hatred that she fed into. But at her core, in time of need, her caring soul won out over her injured spirit. It was the first time I learned how to walk down the middle. Of course as I withdrew and no longer joined into the catcalls, I lost the comradeship of my friends. They called me a goody-two-shoes and eventually I rode my bike by myself.
It's hard not to join in, to want to belong. It is easier to take sides, instead of trying to understand both sides of an issue. I don't always manage to do it. I still slip onto one side or the other, until I once again see the pain that comes out of it all. It is hard to walk alone sometimes, but much easier to sleep at night.