To the lady yelling at the young kid…please shut up!

*Let me preface by saying the story is real and I can’t really filter it. Also, my mama and daddy, did not allow me to use the word shut-up so that speaks to the frustration you are about to witness.

Last week, I was recovering from working several days in a row, with a ton of apprehension with licensing, and exhausted from trying to find creative ways to train our new staff. I also had a pretty intense reflection paper to write for a previous school and I couldn’t seem to un-jumble my thoughts. I decided I was going to hide myself in a small booth in the corner of a coffee shop, knowing a cup (or twenty) of hazelnut coffee would be just what I needed to rejuvenate myself.

It started out great! It was quiet and reflective. Then the dinner crowd starting funneling in, but although the noise level rose a bit, the peacefulness was still there. I continued working, deep in thought, only looking up when someone walked into my direct line of sight.

That’s when I first noticed the two middle aged ladies setting a few seats in front of me. I could hear their catching up, which sounded an awful lot like gossip, as they walked by my table. As I watched them set down, I noticed two young men setting in the lazy seats in front of them. I thought nothing of it, too focused on my own things to observe much.

Unfortunately, the lady in front of me was not as focused. My head immediately jerked up, of its own accord, when I heard, “he has it out and playing with it.” As I looked up, the younger kid (the one who had gained this lady’s attention) was, well let’s say adjusting his pants and walking out the door, oblivious to anything she was saying. The older kid, who looked to be about 14, stopped at the ladies’ table, apologized with an embarrassed look and stated, “I’m sorry, he’s slower.” Then as abruptly as his brother, he also headed out the door.

Uncertain of what to do, I went back to my writing, thinking it was all over. However, the lady in front of me was not done. Apparently, the apology did not appease her. She began to proclaim throughout the restaurant, “That’s disgusting, he was masturbating.” Now, I already mentioned both boys had left and had even offered an apology, so I’m not really sure what the purpose of the yelling (and I do mean yelling) was.

There were shocked looks all throughout the coffee shop, not necessarily because of the boy. Most of the disturbed looks and rolled eyes, including my own, were directed at the lady who couldn’t let it go.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. The younger boy, probably around 10-11, must have realized he had forgotten something. He came back in and started looking around the chair. And…she was off. She started yelling at this child that “he should be ashamed of himself,” over and over again. I kept thinking to myself, “this can’t really be happening. I just wanted coffee and quiet.” But it was happening.

She just kept repeating herself. And the boy, well I don’t know what the brother meant by “slow” but as she was yelling at him he didn’t respond. The lack of response wasn’t out of defiance or ego, but out of a lack of comprehension. She kept yelling and he kept ignoring, even when she was in his face.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” I watch this scenario unfold, all the while thinking, he’s not the one that should be ashamed.

Before I could get up and do something (what I’m not really sure), he was back out the door. I returned to my writing but there was no longer peace and quiet, because my mind was spinning with the injustice toward this youth I had just witnessed.

Again, I was startled, as what now only be labeled as an attack, is directed at the staff at the coffee shop. They apparently “should have done more,” were “useless,” and “didn’t care about the hygiene of the place.” I’m baffled. I’m not sure what I’m more disturbed about, that there was a young man obviously being watched by his older brother masturbating, or the fact that a woman became so irate that she is now to the point of hysterics and the cause is no longer present.

And…you guessed it…the story doesn’t end there. While everyone in the establishment, patrons, staff, management, stare in disbelief and shock. The lady, I’m assuming not getting enough attention, decided to follow the kids outside. She continues to share her disdain as they get on the bus.

She no longer had an audience, so assumed it would be over. Instead, she began flagging cars down as they were pulling into the parking lot and recanting the whole story, loudly so everyone would know what she was doing and providing glances over her shoulder just make sure.

Unreal! I’m still processing what happened days later. I can’t fathom why someone would go to such extremes to shame and humiliate a child. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not justifying the behavior, but also don’t think I can offer an opinion without understanding.

Perhaps, I could say that about the lady, as well, but she’s a grown up. She never offered assistance or forgiveness or guidance. She simply yelled, and humiliated both boys, as well as the staff, and disrupted.

She took an unfortunate circumstance and made it even more unfortunate by making it about her.

How much empowerment would there have been if she would have accepted that apology from a teen boy? How much understanding would she have demonstrated if she would have walked to the counter and quietly informed the manager? How much grace would she have shown if she would have simply let them walk out the door and left them alone?

But there is also me…why didn’t I offer assistance? Why didn’t I step in and offer understanding? How powerful would it have been if I would have confronted her bad behavior. But I didn’t. I let it place out as I sat in my thoughts of inconvenience and why me.

I think about it days later because in my tiredness or inconvenience or apathy I simply watched it play out. Our indifference, my indifference, so often allows injustice happen. What will it take to change that?

Whoa Nelly…What are you making me feel?

Whoa Nelly...What are you making me feel?

I grew up on a small farm, barely on the outskirts of our small town. I dad dreamed of land and somehow convinced my mom to move just outside of the town she grew up in so they could have a garden, some chickens, and someday a mule.

Until he could convince her that we needed a mule, he would have to settle for each of his family members having their own horse for impromptu trail rides, tilling the old fashion way, and setting on the porch with a cup of coffee watching them run through the field. I grew up hearing my dad claim, “he was a horsemen, not a cowboy. A cowboy thinks he knows what he’s doing, but a horsemen actually does.”

And, our horses, well they each had a personality of their own, but they kind of mirrored their owners. My dad’s was daisy, the confident leader. Mom’s was Bunny, beautiful and stubborn. Dixie was Annie’s, feisty, unique, and making it clear how she felt.

Mine was Buster. I may be a little partial, but Buster was the horse that anyone could ride because he was gentle. He was also known for getting the job done. He wasn’t without his quirks, though, much like his owner. He could be lazy at times and sometimes he was too smart for his own good, often allowing his curiosity to get him into trouble.

Our horses were a reflection of us and our lifestyle.

I always knew there was something special about horses. Through the years, we had lots of different types of animals: cows, pigs, chickens, dogs, and every once in awhile a turtle in the basement. But, our horses were our friends; a part of our life. And it seemed like Buster always knew how to make everything better.

Now I have a new appreciation of horses. Last week, we took our staff to our equine therapist so we could get a taste of what our young ladies may experience.

Our first group consisted of eight of us having to get a horse over, through, and around an obstacle. Hard enough right! The catch was we had to do while all connected together. With only moments to think, plan, and respond we had to react. Almost instantly, personalities, emotions, and ideas started to emerge. We quickly learned we can guide and direct but we had to consider where the horse was and where it wanted to go before moving too quickly. We also learned that accomplishing a goal sometimes looks differently than we had originally expected.

Then, the second group stepped up, perhaps with a little more apprehension. Their goal was very different. They had to fasten a lead rope to each side and then without overstepping boundaries weave him through a series of obstacles. You would witness the group slowly getting a rhythm, with one staff gently telling which side to pull and which side to give. As the rhythm got smoother, the horse began to relax and move with them.

Then, we watched as the staff who was originally hesitant and unsure, stepped up and decided to be the guide. Again, we watched as they gently guided the horse through each obstacle, each side having to give and take when appropriate.

That one hour in Equine Therapy reinforced so much of what we know about people and relationships.

1. We have to meet people where they are – it’s their story, journey, process!
2. Sometimes we have to stay connected, even when it’s difficult.
3. Every relationship needs give and take, and sometimes we have to trust what we feel and hear, not just what we see.
4 . Fear comes at each of us. We get to respond individually and as a group how we will respond to it.

Why I decided to end it…or at least try to

Why I decided to end it...or at least try to

I found myself torn last week as red Xs popped up all over the internet. My heart jumped with excitement at the prospect of people growing more aware, but there was also a flash of anger, or maybe discouragement, wondering if The End It Movement would actually spark a MOVEMENT! Movement requires action, action a little more than ending with a red X on your hand.

But, the truth is, I can’t expect or be responsible for anyone else’s movement. I can share, motivate, and challenge, but I can’t force.

And, I have to remember my movement didn’t just happen. It was a series of very deliberate steps, intermingled with a series of “coincidences” that led me to where I am.

Three years ago, before the End It Movement launched, I was setting in a small group of sponsors at the Passion Conference. I wish I could tell you I had great intentions, but the truth is I attended the conference hoping for a vacation and only attended small group because I felt guilty. As we began “processing” through the week, my group started challenging me and asking me if I was really doing what I thought I should be.

I went home torn. I loved what I was doing, but felt a discontent.

As I left the peak experience, it was easy to return to routine and distraction. It was different this time, though. There was always this small glimmer in the back of my mind, that would question if I really was content, really doing all I could.

Then, as if on cue, three of the girls I was mentoring asked me, unprompted, and at separate times, if I was truly doing what God had called me to do. My response was…no, but I wasn’t sure why, or what I was called to.

After resigning from my comfortable job at the church, with many tears, I had no idea where to begin. I found myself lost, but peaceful. As I began searching, processing, praying, two things came to the forefront; the quote, “the only thing that allows evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing” and Proverbs 31:8-9 “speak up for the mute.” They plagued my thoughts and kept me up at night. The only way I knew to do something, anything, was to return to social services, an area I thought was in my exhausted past.

The next two years were a roller coaster of uncertainty and change. I left everything that was comfortable, found myself in several new jobs in new locations, and was having to examine myself continually. I experienced corrupt situations and had to decide what kind of person I really wanted to be. Circumstance after circumstance found me deciding if I could idly set by or if I would be the person to speak up and take action. One response was easy, allowing me to be disengaged and only doing when it was convenient. The other required me to become uncomfortable, confronting injustices and standing up for people.

Eventually, these circumstances led me to resign, yet again, with no idea what was next. August 9th, 2012, I found myself jobless, and technically homeless, but with a clear conscience and a new understanding of who God truly is. This understanding leads to peace in the midst of chaos.

August 12th, I got the call. It was from a small, grassroots non-profit attempting to fight trafficking. Their goal was to provide refuge and restoration to domestic minors who had been trafficked.

If I took the job, there would have to be sacrifices. The pay was part-time, the commute was long, the hours most definitely not part-time. But, I would be joining with other men and women who had CHOSEN to move, to do something. Some had worked gratis for years trying to get it up and going, others were commuting just like me, and all of them were sacrificing to make a small difference.

You see, when I made the choice to join this group, it was because I could no longer set by. I could no longer simply post on facebook, wear a t-shirt, or put a red X on my hand and allow it to end there. All of those things are good, if it causes MOVEMENT.

But, how we move and what causes us to move is up to us!

So as I set here in my Hard Places Community t-shirt looking at my pic of red Xs knowing it is about to be posted on facebook, I applaud the awareness all these amazing organizations are providing. I applaud all the men and women who are working tirelessly to make a small difference in combating trafficking in our nation and abroad. And, I pray that others will join us in truly hoping to End It.