This small town, Southern girl had grown into adulthood with a microscopic perspective of the world. There were some days when I served at the alternative school that I thought my understanding of the world had exploded.
Once in a while I'd hear teachers, in hushed voices, talk about a student "cutting". What was that? Cutting class, cutting up homework, cutting someone's hair?
Obviously, I was clueless.
I gradually caught glimpses into the unbelievably hard lives of some of our students. One girl, Sherry, had been in the program for several years. Some of Sherry's stories about made my mouth literally drop open.
Then one Monday morning in early spring, word wound its way through the staff that Sherry had been hospitalized over the weekend. She'd been cutting again.
The account pounded my ears with the unbelievable.
Sherry had carefully pealed off the metal strip from a number two pencil that attached the eraser to cut herself with...eighty-seven times! She cut her arms and forearms 87 times before someone saw and stepped in.
My heart breaks anew for the inner pain and hopelessness Sherry must have felt to inflict such injury upon her own body. I offer a prayer that her life is better now, full of hope and purpose.
Dear Reader, I've never been to that place. I pray my children and grandchildren never will either. But because the door into it was cracked open slightly for me to see, my world will always be changed.
Sometimes I have to close my eyes to "see" someone better when she speaks. Sometimes I have to completely stop or lean down to see her more closely, to make a connection. Eye contact can be a powerful thing.
And if I'm brave enough, if I listen more closely to my heart, I reach out a tentative hand. A light touch on the arm or shoulder, coupled with a smile may not seem like much to us. But it may, Dear Reader, seem like everything to someone else.