Friday, March 14, 2008

Guilt, I was never meant to carry

I was sitting inside an auto shop waiting for my car's oil change when I saw Becky walk past the window.

I instantly recognized her. She looked the same as she did back in the 4th grade.

My family moved across town that year and I started a new school in the middle of the school year. It wasn't easy being the new kid. Becky arrived about a month later. And it wasn't easy for her either.

The kids in class were terribly rude, nicknaming her The Human Can Opener and Bucky Becky because of her protruding overbite. I always made it a point to be kind to her. But that's not what I was remembering when I saw her walk past the window.

I thought of recess.

I was slapping the red rubber ball against the side of the school wall as if playing two-square with the wall.

"Watch out Becky! You better get out of the way!" I said.
Wack! WACK! wack! "You better mooOoooove!" I would shout to her.

Wack! wack! Wack!
I hit the ball over and over again. Wack! wack!

She sat there on the bench in front and didn't move.

All of a sudden, the ball hit her in the face breaking her glasses.
I froze. Scared and ashamed.

In my 9th grade yearbook Becky can still be seen sporting the same glasses with the white tape holding them together.

Watching her walk past the auto shop, I sat there in the cold plastic chair paralyzed with fear and shame.

I talked to some friends later about this incident of seeing Becky and how I wished I was brave enough to run out to the parking lot and ask her to forgive me for hitting her in the face. And how small I felt that I didn't do it.

They listened with their foreheads all scrunched up in little thin wrinkles arching around their brows while feeling the pain surrounding all this.
"Well, maybe Shawn, you'll have another opportunity to run into her again..."

"Yeahh. Maybe!"
i replied, not really believing.

. . . . . .

Several weeks later, I'm in a discount store to pick up a few supplies when I saw Becky stocking shelves!
I am not scared anymore. I walked up to her and said, "Hi Becky!"

She turned and instantly recognized me, too.

"Hi Shawn!"

I reminded her of our 4th grade recess when I accidentally hit her in the face with the red rubber ball and broke her glasses.

".... I know you don't own those glasses anymore, but I would still like to pay you for the money you were out back then. I owe you restitution for my wrongdoing..."

She just stared at me for a long while and said, "Shawn. You have been feeling guilty over this all these years!? You never hit me in the face. That was Dina! Don't you remember!? I'll never forget it!"

I stood there stunned, relieved and listened.

"You were nice to me. I trusted you. You were careful around me. I knew you had good aim and you would never hurt me and that's why I didn't move."

She gently grabbed my arm and said, "Shawn that was never your guilt to begin with. You were never meant to carry it."

I walked out of that store feeling warm and relieved that I had the opportunity to say hello and ask for forgiveness.
But I also felt sad that I had carried that burden for a lifetime.

As I drove home, I turned the music off and just listened to my heart.

I wondered how many other times, I have carried guilt that was never mine.
I thought of various situations and realize it has been way too many times. I'm on a learning curve. I can't say I've learned all about this now because of this situation because I haven't. But I want to. And plan to.

This lifetime, though too short, is too long to carry burdens that aren't our own.


Doodlestreet said...

Oooh...this breaks my heart! What a sweet sweet story. Poor Shawnie...isn't that the way it goes sometimes. You were so affected by that moment you carried that all these years...

I'm so glad you talked to her!!!

One of those rare downsides to be being a extra sensitive person...sensitive people need a special cart made to carry that stuff gets heavy.

danny said...

That was a sweet story shawn! I think we have all known Beckys in our lives, but you have empathy, that you remembered her. And fate brought you back together again.

doodlegirl said...

Hi doodlestreet. you aren't kidding. the cart can be extra heavy carryin' that around, but the blessing of it is that it keeps the soul awakened.

I totally believe in fate, danny. And you are right. Fate DID bring her back into my life. I've only seen her those two times since I was a kid. That's a miracle in itself, living in this same town.

Michele said...


I, too, am glad you talked to her. How funny how our memories play tricks on us, huh? I wonder why it is you believed you were the cause of Becky's broken glasses?

It makes me sad that you spent so much time carrying around this weight. Man, who hasn't done something they regret when they were younger? That's what being a human, as I see it, is all about - making those mistakes, learning and becoming a better person from them.

You are a good and brave soul, Shawn. Taking on, not only your own burdens, but that of others. I am so glad you now know the truth.

ValGalArt said...

aawww, i do know what you mean about carying around the weight. Good you now the truth now!

violetismycolor said...

I think the important thing was that you were brave enough to confront an ugly incident from your past, no matter that you were not the guilty party. What a brave and kind woman you must be. Good for you.

doodlegirl said...

Thanks for your comments, Michele, Val and Diane.
Ya know, Michele, I thought about why I took on that blame for Dina, and I'm supposin' it's because she wouldn't buckle up and take responsibility and so instead I must've felt I needed to, ya know? . I guess I felt someone needed to carry that burden for Becky and leave is to ms. sensitive. Thanks for all your comments!

kelly said...

Good post, Shawn. Have fun in the sun. All of us here at home are jealous. I hope you get some good tanning weather. See you on Easter.

Rayne said...

What a powerful story. I am so glad it turned out the way it did and you were able to release that guilt.

KathiCarney said...

Wow Shawn, this brought tears to my eyes.