Monday, April 13, 2015


Photo Description: 9 rows of blue children's windmills placed in a park on grass, just coming green, in front of a tree coming into bud.
We checked into our hotel in Omaha and, as it was early enough, and as it was warm enough, went out for a stroll. We were pleasantly surprised that our hotel had a list of pubs in the Old Market area which included one LGBT spot. Right on Marriott! We made our way through town and found the pub which was both physically and attitudinally accessible. Right on 'The Max.' We were there long enough to wind down from the trip and, then, suddenly felt very tired. We said our goodbyes and left heading home a different way.

Joe noticed this glittering, madly whirling, installation of windmills. We crossed the street to see it. It was delightful. Really, really delightful. It was simple. It was joyful. Then I noticed the sign beside it. It said that April was Child Abuse Awareness month and then that powerful slogan, the one that brought me to tears the first time I saw it, "It shouldn't hurt to be a child." I looked back at the rows of windmills and now it seemed that their frenetic spinning might be an attempt to fly up and into the hands of a child who needed, just a little bit of, joy.

We walked the rest of the way back to the hotel quietly. We were tired, we'd done an eight and a half hour drive after all. But I was remembering. Remembering the time that I was called upon to measure and document a child's bruises. She had been beaten by her mother who had flown into a rage because this little girl had woken mom from a nap because she was hungry. I was given calipers so that I could get an exact measure. The child had an intellectual disability but the listlessness with which she greeted me and her frantic compliance to my requests to get a measure of the bruises which covered her arms, her lower legs, her right cheek, told me that she feared me, mistrusted me, and wanted to appease me so that I wouldn't hurt her further.

I took the paper, the one with the outline of the body and with instructions to draw the bruises on the outline indicating where violence had left it's mark. It's silly, I know, but I didn't want to bruise this paper child. I wanted, instead, for the hurt to stop. I've always been good at making up games, on the spot, for children. I didn't want the cold calipers to touch her skin until she saw them as something that could be fun. I managed to get her to measure other things in the room with them. Then, magically, the child began to emerge. She got silly with them, she wanted to measure her fingers, she wanted to measure my big, big nose. She giggled.

When I saw the child. Not the bruised and beaten little girl who had greeted me, but the child. The child who in forgetting the colours of pain on her body became unbruised, I wondered at how anyone could strike her, beat her. After the play, |I set about my work and got the drawing done. I got the bruises measured. The ones on her body, mind, not the ones on her heart, her mind or her soul. As I was leaving she asked if she could keep the toy for awhile, she wanted to measure some more things. I gave it over to her.

It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

It shouldn't hurt to be a child.

But it does sometimes.

And these windmills, twirling furiously in Omaha, are trying to stop it.

Are we?


Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I'm so glad you were there with little girl to invent that game and make gruesome task less gruesome. How does someone hurt a child? It comes from their own woundedness, I think. Not an excuse but an explanation. Some people take their woundedness and spread the pain. Some people take their woundedness and say never again. I don't know what makes the difference. I am only grateful for the never again crowd.


liz said...

Thank you so much for this post.