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Suburban Island

The Eloquence of Compassion
Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2005, 11:09 a.m.

QUESTION: What is she thinking?

WHAT I LEARNED: Everyday bravery abounds.

Last night, my husband and I had just settled down in the living room to watch one of my new favorite shows – Nanny 911 - when our evening took a surprising turn. We had barely had a chance to thank our lucky stars our kids didn’t use profanity as toddlers when our TV show 911 was interrupted by a real life emergency situation knocking at our door. I never thought we could top the turmoil of a good nanny story. I was wrong.

One of our young neighbors was standing there talking on a cell phone and he was looking for my husband. He was on the phone with a young man who was threatening him because our neighbor was friends with this guy’s girlfriend. I guess he wanted an adult witness to the conversation.

Evidently, this kid was concerned about his friend, who was in an abusive relationship. Not surprisingly, this girl was over at the abusive guy’s place while he was on the phone heaping abuse on her good friend because this person was concerned about her welfare (and consequently interfering with the abusive boyfriend’s control of this girl). This hostile guy is making all these threats against everyone and she is making excuses for her out-of-control boyfriend – he doesn’t mean it, he’s not serious. You know the drill. It’s the typical abusive relationship. It’s tragic. And so common.

We want to believe someone we love is worth loving, and if they are treating us badly we want to believe that they will change or it is just a momentary deviation. Believing lies is easy when you want to believe the person who is telling them to you. This woman will endanger herself as well as others around her to remain with a man who abuses her and she will explain it away because he calls her baby and says I’m sorry or I didn't mean it or you know I love you when the assault – verbal, or emotional, or physical – is over for the moment.

I admire our young neighbor who was brave enough to step up to the plate and say flat out – hitting a woman is wrong, trying to control who she sees and where so goes and what she does is wrong unless she is doing something illegal. He said – Why would you hurt someone you say you love? Be a man. That is not what a man does. A man doesn’t hit a woman. Parents – you can impact your sons and daughters. This young man had parents who gave their son a moral compass and the confidence in his values to stand up for his beliefs in a compassionate way. In the face of threats he tried to help both his friend and his enemy. Impressive.

He is right too. Being a man does not mean hurting other people. That is the antithesis of being a man. It takes a real man to understand that power is not in hitting but in lifting up. I hope somehow that guy gets the message before he hurts someone else and in so doing destroys himself. Why do I doubt it?

I have a wish for this young woman. A wish that she will recognize that a relationship based on violence is no relationship at all. And that there are better things waiting for her if she will walk away from what is of no value to her anyway.

And to my young neighbor I say – thank you for allowing me to see a glimpse of heroism in everyday life. It’s hard to stand up to a bully - especially in this day and age. If your friend were wise she would appreciate it. She doesn’t sound very wise right now but perhaps she will become so. She is lucky to have a friend like you.

This is why the wise counsel of friends and family can be so important. Sometimes we can’t see as clearly as we would like to think we are seeing. We need to hear from others who care about us and at least take their insights into consideration if we normally have respect and confidence in them.

So, last night I missed Nanny 911 but gained something better – an added sense of hope in the world thanks to the kid across the street.

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