Saturday, August 27, 2005

March 18, 2005

There are times…
At work the other day two women came in to get ID badges. FYI, the business we share an office with does badges for various companies in town, including ours. These women weren't dressed the best, but they were really happy. I mean, bubbly, sparkly happy. I was a little disconcerted by how happy they were. When I found out why they needed ID badges, I swear, I felt my heart plummet and I had to go to my office to get a grip. I wanted to cry, to throw up, to howl at the moon. They were from the local women's shelter. The one woman was telling me where she came from and how she'd gone to the shelter and there's this whole underground network of women who help each other flee from abusive relationships. They got her on a bus to here from another state. She was proud because she'd just gotten a job at the burger-flipping place in town. She was going to make her own money and spend it how she liked and she was FREE. The chains that enslaved her were gone. She had a support system, a job and a place to stay. She left every thing behind. Clothes, identification, mementos, family...desperation. She was happy to be SAFE. To just be safe. I don't generally comment on stuff like this. There's enough grief on the Internet that rends the soul and makes you ask yourself tough questions. I visit some of those sites on a daily basis. To learn, to think, to grow. But something about these ladies' circumstances made me angry. In a country like America, why in the world do we essentially have an underground network that operates, if not outside the law, at least not with the law...why do these women have to dump everything they know and love and flee, without recourse? Where's the justice? And you know what was even worse? I was feeling sorry for them, pitying them for their past situation...but they weren't feeling sorry for themselves! They were full of pride, full of self-esteem, determined to make a go on their own. They'd been to hell, they'd hit bottom and they knew the only way from here onward was UP. When they left, Steve, one of the guys who works with me turned around and looked at me. The same emotions I'd been feeling were in his eyes. And then he said, very softly, "Talk about a reality check." Both of us had been complaining about something or t'other at home...we didn't complain or whine the rest of the day. I wish I could give those women buttons that say, "You Are My Heroine." I wish there was justice in America that would allow them to live truly free, instead of having to hide. The one lady pulled her wallet out to pay for the badges. Steve looked her in the eye and told her no. He told her to send anyone from the shelter over here who needed badges and he'd help them and they didn't have to pay. It was a small gesture and I'm sure a lot of folk would tell him to let them pay because it helps their self-esteem or some such thing. But you know what? I'm glad he showed them kindness. I'm glad he showed them that not all men are bad. In the next few tough years these women have in front of them, somewhere in the back of their minds will be a little seed of hope that sometimes, people are kind. But I'm still angry that this country needs an Underground Railroad in this day and age.

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