Dec. 21, 2017

The Success Story

As a young teenager, I traveled with my family to visit my grandparents for Christmas. At the time, most of our extended family lived in the same small town. It made more sense for us to go to them as opposed to them coming to us.

A friend lived less than ½ a mile down the road from my grandparents’ home. After greeting my grandparents, I called her on the phone and, in typical fashion, she took off walking from her house to meet me halfway. Once we met up, we turned around and headed back to her house.

My friend was a bit worldlier than I. While we were both in eighth grade, she was hanging around an older crowd. I was going steady with a fellow eighth grader. After saying hello to her parents, my friend said something along the lines of, “Hey, let’s take a walk.” Being the early 1970’s, we took long walks all over the small town. The adventuresome spirit was nothing new. Little did I know that her newly-discovered teenage freedom meant walking far enough out of sight from her parents that we could hop into a car with a pair of older guys.

The naivety in me thought, “This is really cool! Man! They drive their own car!”

After driving through Tastee Freez, my friend and her apparent boyfriend decided they wanted to go to his apartment and listen to music. Again, being a naïve eighth grader who didn’t even know the “F” word existed, I thought again, “Man! They have their own apartment?!”

We arrived at the apartment, which consisted of very little furniture and absolutely no food. There were lawn chairs in the living room, two TV trays and chairs in the dining room, and a mattress on the floor in each bedroom. My friend and her boyfriend listened to a little music and then “retired” to his bedroom.

The other young man somehow wound up entertaining me while the other two remained behind closed doors. We sat on the mattress in the other bedroom and played cards. We laughed and acted silly. After about an hour, my friend came out of the room and said, “Let’s go.”

The young men piled us back into the car and drove us home letting us off down the street from the house. My mother and dad were waiting at the home of my friend. They grabbed me as soon as I walked in the door. Again, I didn’t stop to think they’d be worried. It was a small town. We had established a history of wandering over the years. I did not realize my parents would be so frightened.

My mother fought back tears. My dad asked, “Are you okay?” Naïve Roni said, “Yes, sir.  Why, what’s up?” I was swooped up and taken back to my grandparents’ house. In the car on the way back to my grandparents, I suddenly became less naïve. My parents were still shaking, but so grateful that I was okay.

Funny thing is my parents never responded with, “How could you?” or “You should never!” or “Didn’t we teach you better than that?” My parents never once blamed me. They didn’t ask what possessed me to get into the car with two older guys I did not know. They did not ask me what I was thinking. All my parents asked was, “Did they/he hurt you?” I replied no. Then, my parents went on to teach me why I didn’t want to ever repeat the behavior.

So, why is my blog entitled, “The Success Story?” It isn’t because of anything I did or did not do. It isn’t because of how my parents responded or the fact they didn’t start the blame game shaming me into submission. The success lies in the heart and conscience of a very young man who was rejected by most for coming from the wrong side of the tracks, but who had enough decency to do the right thing.

The success story is I, in my innocence, trusted the young man to behave as he should; not because of what I did, but because of his choices. He accepted responsibility knowing that he would have to answer publicly for what he chose to do privately.

The young man and I continued to be pen pals – remember, this was before the Internet and cell phones. My parents knew I was writing him and saw the letters when he wrote back. I never saw him again; however, I’ve thought a lot of him lately with the #metoo movement. I’m glad he didn’t have anyone in his life that gave him permission to abuse me, take advantage of my trust, or provide excuses for why he could have chosen very bad behavior.

What I find most disturbing is, had something happened, many you are reading this wouldn’t have focused on his behavior or his choices. You would judge mine.

Now, perhaps you know why #metoo is necessary. If our society is going to move to the next level in human relationships, it is high time that we hold males accountable for their behavior. After all, most of the same people blaming the women want to teach their daughters to submit to men because girls, after all, are the “weaker sex.” We, my friends, created this monster. It’s time we, my friends, tame it.

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13