Elizabeth Learns Compassion
My worst nightmare came true. I don’t even know where to begin.
It was all his fault. He ruined me and I will never be the same. I am tainted and torn, and I will never be loved again. I am not worthy of love.
I know you think I am being melodramatic, but it is the truth. Here’s what happened Diary!
First thing this morning, we were taken out of our boxes and placed on hangers. Next, they attached little pieces of paper to us with our stock number (or SKU) and our price. Each item in this big store has its own SKU number. But I am getting off track; I don’t really want to think about what happened to me or what will surely be my resulting fate.
A young boy told another worker he was getting us “floor ready” before placing us on circular clothes racks out in the main store. I have to say, I was awestruck at first by the store’s amazing size. In all my two weeks on earth, I had never seen anything like it. It took me all day to get to know the names of things. I listened closely to the people walking through the store, talking about the “merchandise.”
We were in the middle of the women’s clothes area. There were other sweaters, shirts, jackets, pants, pajamas – thousands of beautiful choices all in one place. Across the aisle were purses and scarfs, and behind them was sparkling jewelry hanging from displays, while other items were being shown inside glass cubes. The jewelry really held my attention. All that sparkle and bling! That’s why I wasn’t paying attention when he walked up behind me. This large, short boy with red freckles all over his face grabbed me off the rack and held me up above his head.
“Check this one out,” he bellowed.
I didn’t get a good vibe from him at all. I was clearly several sizes too small for him.
He brought me over to a girl who was more my size and he started pulling on my poms … hard!
“Look at these,” he said as he chuckled in a weird, unpleasant way. Then he started pulling my poms even harder and asked her if she liked them.
Then it happened. He pulled one of my poms right off me! The pain was unbearable and I almost blacked out.
“Now you’ve done it. You ruined the sweater,” said the girl. “Get rid of it. Nobody’s going to want it now.”
Through the pain where my pom had been viciously ripped from me, I could feel a deeper pain. What did she mean nobody would want me? I was still the same. It wasn’t my fault I had been injured. My pom could be reattached!
I was feeling embarrassed, just like at the warehouse when the
three girls were calling me ugly and taking pictures of each other while wearing me. The combination of being scared, humiliated and hurt was making me a little sick to my stomach.
Adding further insult to injury, the buffoon tossed my pom on the floor and stuck me between the other sweaters on the rack. I was not put back on a hanger; I was not folded nicely. I was just hidden so he wouldn’t get in trouble for being mean to me. My only solace was in knowing that I wouldn’t be stuck going home with him due to the store’s “you-break-it-you-buy-it” policy. Nobody saw him “break” me.
I looked over at the jewelry, but it didn’t seem to sparkle as bright as it had only a scant few moments before. I felt so cheapened by the abuse of that boy that I couldn’t enjoy the kids, or the laughter, or the spirit of Christmas; that is, until just before closing. What I saw and heard then changed everything.
I saw a young woman pushing her child in a small pink wheelchair. The young girl looked to be about six years old in people years. She had dark beautiful hair and bright green eyes, along with the cutest pink cheeks. The mother was clearly looking for Christmas deals, as she turned every price tag before taking any item off the rack for a better look.
An elderly man with a cane came hobbling along. He was in a hurry and not paying attention to what was going on around him. As he hurried past the mother and daughter, his cane ran into the little girl’s leg and she let out a muffled cry. This startled the old man, and once the look of surprise cleared his face it was replaced by hostility.
“Where did you come from?” he barked at the little girl. “You need to watch where you are going.” Then to the mother, “If she is going to be in one of those things, you better teach her how to use it. What kind of a mother are you?”
“Excuse us, sir. We will be more mindful in the future,” was the woman’s gentle reply.
Not quite satisfied but left with nothing to say, the old man retreated, cane in hand and grumbling under his breath.
Once he was far enough away, the little girl looked up at her mother, confused and wanting answers.
“Why was he so mean to me?” she asked. “Did I do something wrong that I don’t understand? He really did bump into me, mommy. Why did you apologize? I don’t know what I did wrong, but I must have done something because I sure feel bad.”
I wanted to reach out and tell her that it was not her fault, that she had no reason to feel bad. And as this urge got stronger, I realized that this was good advice for me, too. It wasn’t my fault that a boy had been mean to me earlier, either. The only difference was that I had to worry about never being picked by a forever person and the little girl had a mom.
But I know I’ll never forget what the little girl’s mother told her in response to the very valid questions.
The woman squatted down so she was eye level with her chair-ridden daughter.
“I am glad you are asking, Elizabeth. You see, when someone else is in a bad mood or wants to be mean, their energy level is vibrating very low. When people are happy and friendly to others, their energy level is vibrating very high. Does that make sense so far?”
Little Elizabeth considered the answer with a scrunched-up face, then replied in a tone that was low and slow, “So when people are upset, they are looow and slooow.” Then Elizabeth’s voice got excited and she took on a higher, quicker tone, “and when people are in a good mood they are high and happy?”
Her mother smiled and nodded, “I think you have that part right. Now consider this. If a person is looow and slooow,” she said, mimicking Elizabeth’s earlier tone, “then perhaps it is because something has happened to them that is making them sad. Maybe they are sick or afraid of something. There are many reasons why people can get looow and slooow. Do you think we can be kind enough not to judge them, and instead show them the Christmas spirit no matter what time of year it is?”
Elizabeth broke out in a big smile, “Of course, mommy. We should be extra nice to everyone all the time, especially if they are being mean, right?”
“Right,” her mother answered. “However, there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. First, it is important that you keep your own energy vibrating high. This is what keeps you safe and happy in life. So when someone says or does something that is coming from a low or negative place, the only way they can take you to that negative place, too, is if you start thinking negative thoughts about what they did.”
She continued. “When the man first bumped you, it may have hurt a little where he bumped you, but inside, you still felt okay, yes?”
Elizabeth thought a moment and responded, “Yes.”
“When did you start feeling bad inside?” her mom queried.
“When he started yelling at me,” replied Elizabeth. “I got very
upset. I wondered how anyone could bump into me and then turn around and yell at me. He should have apologized to me!”
“So you started to feel bad when you started to have bad thoughts about his behavior.”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said with a bit of annoyance, “He was rude.”
“And when you stop thinking those thoughts and start thinking that maybe he just got bad news, or could be sick … and you begin feeling compassion for the man, how do you feel?”
Elizabeth took a second to immerse herself in imaginary compassion for the man and you could see her mood change. “I feel better, mom.”
“And the lesson here, my precious Elizabeth, is this: You cannot change what other people will say or do. But realize that when someone is being mean or belittling you, it is all about what they are going through – which has nothing to do with you. When you reach out in compassion, even when you are not being treated with the same respect, you will always know you did your best. And when you keep your thoughts on feelings like love and compassion, you have a superpower. It’s like an invisible force field blocking any negative energy from putting you in a bad mood.
“And no matter what anyone says or does to you,” the mother continued, “that does not change the kind, pretty, funny, future artist that you are. Never think that you are less than perfect because of what someone else says or does! Understand?”
“I understand, mommy,” said Elizabeth as she leaned forward and threw her arms around her mother’s neck.
As her mother stood back up and start wheeling Elizabeth away, I found myself smiling, too. This was exactly what I needed to hear; exactly when I needed to hear it. I was going to be compassionate about the mean boy who pulled off my pom. Maybe his mother dropped him on his head when he was a baby; or maybe he drank cleaning fluid as a kid. But I now knew that I was still wonderful, and the right person would see that. I would find a forever home no matter what the brain-damaged person had done to me.
I also realize that perhaps I still need to work on this compassion thing, but it’s a start.
~Excerpt from Diary of an Ugly Sweater