I was reminded this week of a book I had read while working in the school Library. One of our special needs teachers had me order it in. After reading the name I had to give it a read: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook - What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing, Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz
It outlines the experiences of working with emotionally stunted and traumatized children, child psychiatrist Bruce Perry educates readers about how early-life stress and violence affects the developing brain. It was not an easy read, the stories of the children and what they had been through were horrendous, but fascinating. Dr. Perry is a North American expert who gets flown in for the worst cases. As the name portrays the stories are hard to read and the effects of the abuse and/or trauma on the children – gut wrenching; but unfortunately true.
Why do people do such horrible things to each other and worse yet – to children?
I know from my working with people that hurt children grow into hurt adults and unless they get the help they need to work through the deeply hidden pain that pain does not disappear it manifests in other ways.
The story told to me this week reminded me of this book:
A young lady, very troubled or on drugs came into a clothing store, she was obviously a lady of the evening. The first indication to the store clerk that something was off was that the young lady growled at her, much like an animal and then proceeded to start talking to herself while she perused up and down the clothing racks.
She spent a lot of time picking out clothes and putting them in a basket. Shortly after her arrival in the store, two other staff members approached the store clerk behind the counter and told her they needed to tell her about this particular young lady. Their body language betrayed their feelings towards the troubled young woman. They were not going to stand for her to be in the store and they were ready for a fight should she try to make a scene, steal or disturb other people. They literally glared at the young woman.
The store clerk behind the counter told the other two employees in no uncertain terms that the young lady would be treated with respect no matter what they felt towards her.
They were adamant that if the young lady mouthed off or stole something, the fight was on. The store clerk firmly replied that no matter what that young lady did, she would be treated with respect and if they could not – then to go to another part of the store. Three times she had to tell them that she would treat this troubled young lady with respect even if she stole from them because God would want them to. She explained that stealing would not be tolerated but respect would still be used. They could not handle this, huffed and made a bee line for the back of the store.
Unfortunately many people fall into this category.
The store clerk likened their attitude to the crowd of men that circled the woman caught in adultery in the Bible, judging her and they were going to stone and kill her because of her “sin”. This was the crowd to which Jesus said, “He who is without sin should cast the first stone,” and the crowd slowly dissipated until no one but Jesus was left there. John 8:3-11
Why do we judge so harshly when we do not like what we see? Why do we worry about someone else’s sin but not our own?
The young lady was in the store for at least 1 and ½ hours trying on clothes. Three sales staff rallied around her and helped her see what were the best clothing choices, even if the clothing was somewhat scandalous. She confided to two of the clerks that she hated herself and her life, that she had no idea who her parents were and even wondered if she had a sister.
I thought of the above mentioned book when I heard this story because I wondered what kind of pain this young lady must have gone through to end up as a prostitute and to hate herself and her life that badly. She was obviously looking for attention and was getting all the wrong kinds.
The sales clerks had wondered throughout this whole process if this young lady had any money at all. She chose a pair of pants and a shirt that she wrapped around her head and shoulders so her midriff was totally exposed. She eventually wandered over to the checkout counter and confessed to the sales clerk that she had no money.
The clerk looked at this young lady and asked her what she could do to pay for the clothes if she had no money. She offered to come in, in a few days with money. The clerk said no. The clerk said how much was the clothing worth – they looked at the tags. She looked the girl in the eye and said, “If you have no money why were you trying on all the clothes?”
Without batting an eye the young woman said that the clothes she had on were covered with peoples “stuff” and yucky.
While her stomach lurched at what that statement really meant, without batting an eye the sales clerk nodded back and said, “I see. Well what can we do about payment?”
The young gal looked around and said, “I can work. I can sweep.”
Seizing the moment the clerk said, “Perfect! I will get a broom and you can sweep for me for the clothing.”
The young gal swept the floor, oh it was not a great job, probably not even a good job, but sweep she did.
And you know she walked out of the store with her dignity held high and feeling like a respected person, because she paid for her clothing with work. She was not shunned or felt to be put down. She even hugged the sales clerk on her way out and thanked her.
Smiling through her tears, the sales clerk watched her go, praying for her as she went.
She knew that the bigger picture was this: The store was not going to heaven, but the people God sends to the store sure are and if God sent this one, then who was she to treat her differently than anyone else.