Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Little Girl's Story

Once upon a time there was a happy little girl who loved to play with her friends. She was a little on the shy side, but once she knew someone she loved them. She was friendly with the neighbors and had friends over to play often. On her fourth birthday her Mommy and Daddy had a big summertime party with balloons and cake and party hats, and all of her little friends came to celebrate. Her world was a fun, safe place where everyone cared about each other and tried very hard to be nice. Everyone was a friend.

When the little girl was five, her mommy became a religious zealot. She started taking the little girl to meetings three times a week and then, on weekends, mommy would take the little girl out selling religious magazines. It was fine with the little girl, because she she made new friends at the meetings and she liked going from door to door, even if the people were strangers, because they were nice and she got to meet a lot of new dogs and cats.

One day, the mommy was taking the little girl out to preach and sell magazines. They walked into a rather dark apartment building that smelled musty and old. There was a long, narrow staircase leading up to the second floor, so the mommy and daughter went up the stairs, walked up to the door, and knocked. They waited, then knocked again. When no one answered, the mommy rolled up a magazine or two with a rubber band and left them wedged between the doorknob and the door frame. She often did that... left older, outdated copies of the magazines for free... because it might save someone's life if it helped them find out the truth. The little girl and her mommy turned and walked down the stairs together... mommy first, with the little girl following. They were almost to the bottom of the wooden staircase when they heard a door open at the top of the stairs. The little girl turned around and looked up, smiling, ready to meet a new friend. But the woman who came storming out of her apartment was angry... very angry. She screamed profanities at the child and her mother and before the little girl knew what was happening, the woman threw the rolled-up magazines as hard as she could down the staircase. The magazines hit the little girl as she threw her arms up and tried to run, and the woman's angry voice echoed through the halls. The door slammed, and then there was silence... except for the sobbing of a very frightened little girl.

I will never forget how I felt when that woman screamed and threw those magazines at me. I wasn't physically harmed, but it scarred me emotionally. It shattered my view of the world, and of people. It turned me from the little girl who loved everyone, to a hesitant, scared, untrusting child. From that point on, I was always wondering if a stranger was going to hurt me or not. The world became a frightening place.

It took me a long time to get over that. I grew up knocking on stranger's doors for hours and hours every week, selling magazines, preaching a message, dealing with strangers and their unpredictable kindness or hostility. It forced me to build an emotional shield for myself... armor, if you will... that hid and protected the mushy, soft, trusting insides. It shaped my entire person in a very real and lasting way.

This story has nothing to do with weight loss, but it is very personal to me. It is something I wanted to share, to let you in on a bit of who I am and how I came to be. I hope to share more bits and pieces of my life here, even if they don't have any connection to weight. But maybe from this story you can see why compassion and kindness to strangers is so important to me. It is something I believe in with every fiber of my being.

I hope I never affect any person in the way that woman affected me. And I hope we can all foster a habit of kindness and compassion for others.


beerab said...

I won't lie- when people come to me with religious magazines I'm not thrilled about it. I have never ONCE been rude but have always said no thank you.

I'm sorry that lady did that- that was extreme- specially to throw the items at you how rude!

Lyn said...


oh I don't like it either. I find it a bit intrusive and annoying, but I know what it's like to be on the other side, thinking you are out saving people from destruction. I am SO thankful I exited that religion and my children to not have to go through what I did.

Leslie said...

That must have been terrifying. I had some pretty scary similar things growing up. Two involved neighbors (different neighbors) that I still remember today. The whole sense of something coming out of the blue in a cruel and perverse manner definitely turned the volume way down on any trust I'd had in others. Hypervigilance kicked in and became a strategy that still pops up on occasion today.

Thanks for sharing another piece of your story with us, Lyn.

froggy said...

No excuse ever to be rude to anyone.

Most of the time I look out the window, check who is there and pretend I'm not home....

Jane said...

How horrible. That woman probably never even thought twice about what she did to you, yet it scarred you. Even more of a reason to make sure we are kind.

Deb said...

Maybe the point of the story is not so much the magazines and religion, but the unnecessary outburst a little girl thought was directed at her for something she believed was good.
I have an incident like that in my childhood that has been very difficult to shake. I've always wanted to confront the person. They say "sticks and stones may break your bones..." but I've never believed that.

DrTejas said...

Wow, what a story! Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry you had to experience something so life changing at such a small age.

Happy Fun Pants said...

I live downtown and the other day I was walking to my building and saw a woman walking with two ADORABLE twin girls. She also had a baby in one of those baby sack thingies that you wear on your chest.

I smiled at the little girls (who were about 4) as I am wont to do and one of them came right up to me to try to hand me something - a card or some other crap. She had a whole handful of them in the other hand.

My jaw dropped. This mom was using her kids to advertise for her.

I politely said no thanks and wished her a good day...but for some reason, it really messed with my head that day.

I just don't get people sometimes.

spunkysuzi said...

I always answer and say no thank you!
I know there are things that have scarred me from childhood, most i'm lucky that i don't remember, some i do.

Karen said...

What an appalling thing for any adult to do to a child. I am so sorry you had such an experience as a little girl, Lyn.

Anonymous said...

I always just say, "no thanks."

It's awful that the woman was so nasty and threw the magazines down the stairwell after you. It's no surprise that you were frightened and that the experience changed you.

But it was also awful of your mother to bring her with you on these door-knocking expeditions. She had to know that there would be some people who were hostile and unfriendly regarding complete strangers intruding in their lives to "save them." She was also responsible for the trauma you endured. Ugh.

Jennifer said...

Nice post Lyn. I try to always go out of my way to even just smile at people. And when you have kids with you I find that more people are willing to give back a smile. But I am always surprised regardless of where I am when I smile at someone and they dont smile back! What a simple politeness, and I think it actually takes more effort NOT to smile and be ignorant!

And off on another tangent....I am 30 years old so it isnt like I am ancient, but I remember when I was younger people seemed to be kinder. Especially people whose jobs are in "customer service". It always makes me think how much the world has changed that people can be so nasty while working a "customer service" position. You never know what you will get at the checkout of a store. I cant tell you the number of times that if I hadnt said hello to the cashier that the entire transaction would have been in total silence. What is wrong with this picture?

Anyway...sorry this turned into my vent...I guess it just struck a nerve!

Lisa said...

You said in your post that this did not have to do with weight but I think this story does have a lot to do with why you have battled your weight.

You mention how you put up armor to shield yourselves from other. Has your weight been part of that shield?

I am not a licensed psychologist yet but I do think that this event that so scarred you has a lot to do with it.

Sorry you had to go through that.


Debra said...

Too bad we hold onto such memories & it's quite remarkable how it affects the rest of our lives. I also grew up in the religion you're speaking of and went door to door with my mother every week. The fear of rejection molded my personality in ways I wish it hadn't. Fortunately, my mother was very sweet & loving and she never rejected me when I left the religion as yours did, so I didn't have the same experience as you in that regard. But I can surely relate to many of your posts about the "religion".

I love reading your blog. You've got great insight with a wonderful sense of humor.


Stephanie Hill said...

If you think this has nothing to do with weight loss, I think you're wrong. All of the experiences we have shape us into who we become, for better of for worse. That was clearly a defining moment in your young life. The important thing to remember is that you are no longer that little girl. The world can be a scary place and some people are just horrible, but you have the wherewithal to defend yourself now, and to choose the people with whom you spend your time. The more you learn about yourself, the more your weight loss journey will succeed, but more importantly, the happier you will be.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line from my experience ... if you feel some emotion when retelling that story, you are still carrying it around. Hey, I'm just trawling through all my stuff at the moment and that bit of guidance helped me to lock in on what was still affecting me. Rightly or wrongly, extra weight can be one of our modes of protection. Thanks for sharing your story.

Hanlie said...

This was obviously one of the incidents in your life that "shaped" you... Thank you for sharing! You're right, it was a terrifying experience.

Sharon said...

Thanks for sharing this story and I agree with those who say it probably is related to weight loss. Obviously, it still haunts you and I think carrying extra weight is usually something we allow ourselves to "hide" behind so we don't have to confront the things from which we are running. Thank you for your blog. You spend a lot of time preparing your posts and as a new blogger myself, I really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I too grew up in that religion - and my family has rejected me and pities me for my ignorance in leaving the truth..But my experience is so very different than yours. It opened my eyes to what good people do, and how good people treat perfect strangers who are motivated to do a very difficult job with no compensation except to curry favor for their and their families future. I always expected crap from people - it was when I had a good experience that my eyes were open.. isn't that funny? I grew up in the Northeast (near NYC) and mean was the norm.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Lisa and Stephanie that the episode likely has a lot to do with your weight issue. It changed your world view from safe and loving to unsure.

I know that, on some level, I created a suit of armor to keep me at one remove from the world. Fat insulates me and isolates me. And, simultaneously, food comforts me.

Struggling onward...


Patti said...

I have been following your blog for a couple years now and I have even referred other people to it. I have your "Learned Helplessness" post on my Favorites menu - it is great. I found your blog via internet search as I too struggle with food issues. I have always been overweight - graduated highschool at 200lbs and spent the past 10 years at over 300lbs. Then 2 years ago I started a low-carb diet, for the 2nd time, but this time added exercise and now have lost 140lbs. But even with all my success it is a constant struggle and I feel at any moment I could go right back to where I was.

I've never commented on your blog before but I was really surprised to read this post. I was part of that religion too - from about 4 yrs old to my early 20s. It was such an overwhelmingly shaming experience. I still deal with shame, judging others, feeling judged -- its horrible. I know for sure that I used food to cope with the pain caused by trying to both live up to JW's standards and wanting to fit in with and feel normal, like everyone else.

I love your posts, they really speak to me. Good luck on your journey, I'll be reading and hoping to continue on my own.