We lost another casualty yesterday in the war between, our dog, Luca and the boys toys. Luca seems to have taken a liking for eating the limbs of action figures, Diego figurines, toy soldiers... Billy usually wants to throw away what is left of the mangled body but for some reason I just can't seem to let him. I don't know if it is a need for him to understand that just because Diego might be missing a leg or Batman is missing an arm, that they can still serve a purpose or that I feel the empathy, that I have felt since I can remember, for people who are struggling and might feel that they are missing a piece of themselves. Instead, I show him, that they can still fly around in his hand and ride in the Batmobile and he agrees to continue playing with them.
I can remember, as a child, placing all my stuffed animals on my bed and under the covers at night because I didn't want any of them to be cold or feel left out. I don't know if we are born with a certain amount of empathy or if we learn it or lose it along the way, but when I was little, I can remember being overwhelmed by the feeling of empathy I had at times for others.
I enjoyed high school, I had a lot of friends, I went to parties, I went to dances... But to this day, every time I think of high school, I think of Emma. Emma was not as fortunate as I was, she had untamed, flaming red hair and clothes that were not always clean nor of the latest trends in fashion. She kept to herself, mostly because I think she wanted to blend in an attempt to avoid the heckling that unfortunately happens in high schools.
My lunch table in high school was the table that everyone wanted to sit at and lunch for Emma was probably one of the worst parts of her day. At times, people would throw things at her while she quietly read a book by herself or yell things at her. For two years, although my stomach turned every time, I watched as others forced Emma to feel the pain they were obviously feeling in their own hearts. I finally realized, that if Emma could just sit at my lunch table, it would at least substantially decrease the amount of mocking she would have to endure each day. So, one day, I invited her. To this day, I don't know if my plan was an attempt to stop her from being hurt or to alleviate the pain that I felt for her. She sat with me that day and every day after, for the rest of my Junior year. That year I learned, that her mother had passed away when she was very
young and that she lived at home with her father and older brother and that there wasn't anyone around to teach her about makeup or clothes or how to handle her unruly hair. That she enjoyed reading and spent the good part of each day lost in a book. She learned that I worked at a Bakery after school and Emma would visit me there a few afternoons and I would give her a donut and we would chat about different things. Although, I became Emma's friend that year, I was still too wrapped up in where I was socially to treat her the same way I treated my other friends and for that I wish I could tell her that I'm sorry. My empathy for her is what allowed me to acknowledge her pain but my own vanity prevented me from grabbing her hands and helping to pull her up.
I didn't realize yesterday that one of Billy's soldiers was missing an arm until while playing with it, Spiro screamed "What are you doing out here without a weapon. Are you trying to get yourself killed?" That's exactly how I felt about Emma. I felt like she had been sent out to war without a weapon to protect her. I could never understand how God could unleash such a kind, gentle soul with nothing to protect her. Not a mother to comfort her or confide in. Not a friend for support. I
still can't imagine how hard those teenage years must have been for her. Just writing about her,
makes my heart ache for how difficult her life must have been at times.
I hope that at some point my boys will read all the entries on this blog. I hope that they read this story about Emma and that it will possibly give them the courage that is needed to battle injustice. I hope that when they come across "an Emma" they will be kind, understanding and brave enough to stand up for that person and I pray to God everyday that they are not on the receiving end of the type of brutality she endured, I sincerely don't think my heart could take it. I hope that the cruelty which unfortunately exists in the world won't ever jade them or make them feel that following their hearts to make a difference, is an impossibility.
I don't know why I wrote about Emma today. Maybe it's because I think about her and wonder how she is as an adult. Maybe it's because I don't ever want to lose that part of me that empathizes with others. My mom knows the story about Emma and she always says "that girl will probably never forget you" but to be quite honest, Emma opened up a part of me that I hope never closes and I know for sure that I will never forget her.