April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We must do all we can that no child suffers from abuse, but not every case is found.
Those that remain in such situations also suffer loneliness. A child may be experiencing trauma every day in the one place that should be his or her sanctuary.
Another person walking into that home may see an entirely different environment than the one that exists without guests. Sometimes one of the parents is not even privy to the extent of the abuses that take place when away at work. The secrecy of abuse places such a child at a distance and alone.
My childhood home was that way, from about the age of ten to sixteen. Dad had married when I was nine and my sister was seven. We were excited to have a new mom, but it quickly became a very difficult life.
It was a hidden life and my sister and I lived in turmoil. Daily and yearly it went on. When I was fourteen and ready to graduate eighth grade, my parents bought me a new dress—because all the parents were doing this and we had to look normal. No one outside of our home knew what the inside was like. My dad didn’t even know all of it.
My parents drove me to within two blocks from where the graduation ceremony would take place and, as they dropped me off, they said, “Meet us back here when you’re done.” I walked the two blocks, stood in my place in the bleachers with the graduating class, went through the motions, and remained in my position in the bleachers as the kids dispersed to their intimate family groupings out on the lawn.
I watched the other kids as their families hugged them and looked with pride into their eyes, and I thought, No one cares about someone else’s kid. I was amid crowds, yet completely alone. No one looked up. I slowly stepped down out of the bleachers, walked around to the road, passed the two blocks to the car, and rode away mired in my world of hate. I was so depressed.
It would have helped my whole world if one person had looked up and smiled. If you see a kid standing alone and depressed, give the gift of a smile. That act of kindness will stay with that child his or her whole life–especially if he happens to be enduring a life of abuse.
People just don’t know what one thing—-small in their own eyes—-can mean to another person. Take the time to give a child that gift.
◊ Sherry Green received her masters degree in publishing at Portland State University. Her memoir, Child Alone, will be released in October of 2012.