I found no love, so I lived on hatred, and hatred became my love.
Entry in Glen’s diary, when he was seventeen.
There is something about cloudy days, maybe with a chill in the air, that seems to drive certain people “inward” and bring out feelings buried in the past. Such it was at the Oak Street Bible Shop on this particular day.
Sue was recounting her miserable years in high school, with a bitterness so uncharacteristic of her usual demeanor. “I had almost no friends” she began. “I don’t know what it was I needed from people, but I do remember no one at school ever really touched me in any deep way. People were not unkind, they were just indifferent. It was like I did not matter to anyone, like I was not really there.”
There was an awkward silence, then Gary spoke. “One of my aunts said that when she was riding on the bus she felt like everybody else had something more important to do, some place to go to that mattered more than what she was doing.
She was such a broken person, all her life.”
Glen shared some of his emotions from when he was a young man. “For me, I felt people either did not care about me, or hated me. I felt hatred in the air wherever I went. I realize now, I was estranged, near the edge, really. One of my teachers, more perceptive than even my parents, told my mother, “Some day a pretty little girl will smile at him and his life will turn around.”
Joy looked inquiringly at Glen, fascinated by this insight into his early years. “Well, was your teacher right? Did a girl change your life, because you sure are not that way now, though you can be as stubborn as an ox.” She smiled as she said this.
Glen paused as he reflected over this long ago time in his life.
“In a way, my teacher was right, but the little girl was an infant, and though my life did not turn around right away, my path and my whole outlook changed.”
“I was out walking, far from home, miles to go. I was cold and starting to get a little wet. At that time I was hurting so bad I honestly did not give a damn about cold or wet, because what was inside was so much worse. I didn’t even feel those physical sensations.”
“I saw a car slow down, and a voice called out, ‘Hey, Glen, you want a ride?’ It was a classmate of mine, a rather aloof fellow, who never paid much attention to me. Maybe I looked as pathetic as I felt, I don’t know, but I took him up on his offer. His father was driving, his mother next to him, holding his baby sister. I was grateful for the lift and said so, and we rode along in silence. I felt I was a “charity case”, not a friend and slid back into my solitude. Then a little face peered over the mother’s shoulder, a baby girl, wearing a little bonnet. She peered at me with her beautiful gray eyes.
So many times, in those days, I felt as if people were giving me hard looks, I was really projecting my own warped feelings onto them. But this little angel face had no such look, just innocence and curiosity. I thought, “Here is someone who does not hate me, here is a sweet little being who is just reading my face to see who I am. I felt something melt inside me. I felt only love towards this little child. It must have been reflected in my eyes, because as soon as I had that thought, she smiled at me. She beamed! Honestly, I could feel myself change at that moment. We had connected. I had sent her love and she responded.”
Glen concluded, “The car stopped at my place and I turned to my friend and his father, ‘Thank you so much for the lift.’ But I was really thanking her!”
This revelation was followed by a strained silence. How do you follow such a story? Sue spoke tentatively “You reminded me of the Longfellow poem “Jenny Kissed Me”, you know, how a man weighted down by the world is lifted up by a sweet little act of love. I’ll bet you anything it really happened in his life!”
Gary told of a radio interview he had heard. “A young guy had been arrested for taking part in the robbery of a home. He and two older companions had invaded a home at gunpoint and tied up a man and his wife. The young man described tying the woman to a chair. During the struggle her dress had come up over her knees. He pulled it back down again. The wife said to him “I can tell you’re really a good boy, you’re not like them.” When she said this he felt a pang of remorse, he was touched by what she said. “I had never held a woman in my arms” he said, “I had never felt or given any love, then she said this to me!”
Joy, moved out of her usual stern demeanor had a story of her own. “I was shopping one day and noticed a woman pushing a cart, but not really looking at anything. She had a stricken expression on her face. I couldn’t even imagine what was going on in her mind, but I could see something was really wrong in her life.”
“Another woman was watching her too, someone who knew her, because she pushed her cart to where she was and started speaking very brightly, she was exaggerating her cheerfulness, flooding this poor lady with questions and little compliments, ‘How are you, I’ve really missed you’, not letting the lady answer, just gushing over her. I wouldn’t have used that approach, but the lady must have known what she was doing. You could see the light come into her friend’s eyes. ‘Somebody noticed me, somebody cares, I’m really not all alone after all!”
“It’s a gift some people have” Glen reflected, “women have it all over men in this I’m convinced. They will gather around a wounded comrade, and cheer them up. A man will just slink away, ‘He’ll get over it” he thinks.
“Who was it who said,” asked Gary “ that when women are in trouble they seek company and consensus, but men seek solitude?”
Sue concluded, “I didn’t have a little angel turn my life around, or a bevy of kind ladies come to my rescue. Maybe that’s why I am like I am today?’