There was this girl in grammar school. Her name was Karen. She had greasy hair and wore the same two dresses over and over again. Karen would pick her nose and furtively lick at the results. It seemed, in some way, an absent-minded act. She’d have this far off, haunted look in her dark eyes.
Once, as we stood in the line at the library, I noticed I was standing in a small pool of liquid on the dark wooden floors. The trail led to Karen who was standing beside me. She had wet herself. Her arms wrapped about her torso like an embrace as she stared at the floor. I could see the flush on her face and neck from her humiliation. Gradually the others noticed. I moved out of the small puddle and stood silently.
The rougher boys began to exclaim, “Ewww … Karen peed on herself.” Many of the girls simply stood with horrified expressions. I was frozen. All I knew was that someone needed to help her. “For God’s sake … someone help her,” I thought.
The teacher came and took her by the elbow to lead her away. That’s when Karen looked at me.
I’m a middle-aged parent today. This morning, during meditation, I saw Karen looking at me once again. After all these years, I realized something. Karen was crying out for help. Those fathomless eyes were pleading and had been pleading all along for someone to save her. I can only imagine what might have been her torment.
I was never unkind. As I recall I spoke only once to softly encourage her. That was before I became harder. That was when my heart still yearned with open love for those around me. Today my heart opened once again.
I can’t help Karen anymore. It’s too late. The moment passed by as I stood watching. Maybe I can help someone else though. Maybe you can too. So I’ll pray for Karen. I’ll pray for all the children who need to cry out for help but can’t. They can’t cry out for the shame of it. They are ashamed that others will know their brokenness and the brokenness of their tormentors. They are afraid that if they tell, the torment will increase. They are alone in a world full of people so we need to listen. We won’t hear them with our ears. We will only hear them with our hearts.
Listen and be careful. Hold them. Encourage them. Teach them and watch. Look for the opportunity to save them without doing harm. Remember … there are children who need to cry out but are afraid.