When I was in the 5th grade, we moved to Shreveport LA for two years. Two critical years for me. I had been in one school in one house since first grade. I had friends. I had roots. I knew my place in the hierarchy of my peers. Then, in 5th grade, I was the new girl.
The two girls who ruled my grade at Creswell Elementary School in Shreveport LA were named Ginger and Shelly. Ginger lived right behind me; she was obviously the queen bee, but she and Shelly were tight. And I wanted in. I wanted in their circle so badly.
I am not as old as the next part of this story will make me sound, but here it is: In those days, we walked to school. And on the corner right across from the Creswell Elementary School playground was a drugstore with a soda fountain. (No I did not grow up in the 50's.) For a quarter you could buy a cherry Coke in a little Coke glass, and every afternoon after school, we all stopped in to buy our cherry Cokes. And every afternoon in that drugstore, Ginger and Shelly would take me over into the cotton ball aisle where they informed me what uncool thing I had done that day that caused me to fall short of the requirements for being in their circle.
That's right, they were mean girls. They were bullies. Not the kind that punch you in the stomach, although it felt like being punched in the stomach. The kind that yank the rug out from under you right as you're laughing at a joke or drinking your cherry Coke.
You should know this about me: Ever since then, if you say, "I need to talk to you for a minute," or "Could we get together?" without telling me why, my stomach sinks. I am right back in the cotton ball aisle. You have just returned me to elementary school, which is a hard place to be in life.
Why did I take this? Why didn't I say, "Shut up?" Why didn't I just walk away?
I was thinking about that this weekend when I read this poem:
It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.
Marie Howe, Part of Eve's Discussion
Aaron talked about Eve this weekend. In his sermon, he took us back to that moment in the garden when the serpent slithered up to Eve and planted his awful lie.
"You could be like God," he said.
Eve should've said, "I am like God. I was made in His image." But she didn't.
She let him pull the rug out from under her. She let him punch her - punch us all - in the gut. She went to the cotton ball aisle.
What if Eve had put her hand out, not to take the apple, but to hold up her palm and say, "Shut up."
Oh, wouldn't things be so different now?
Well, I ask you the same question. What if?
What if tomorrow when the voice in my/your head says, "You're fat/ You're stupid/ You're irrelevant/ You're going to fail" —what if we put out our hand and said, "Shut up!" What if we walked away from the mean girls, from the bullies? From the source of all bullying?
I'm up for it if you are.