SPEAKING UP even when afraid

It’s 1984. I am 38 years old. I finally have the courage to not only listen to my 10 year old voice that tells me it is not true what the bible says: that you will go to hell if you do not accept jesus as your savior, but also to take action to leave my family’s religion. Then, I could sing with John Lennon, imagining a world without religion, where we can be one, in love. It was scarier to hear my 12 year old daughter tell me that I will go to hell by leaving this soul-crushing belief of the bible. We both have tears caressing our cheeks, as she looks piercingly into my eyes from her upper bunk bed. Overcoming the fear of being rejected by my family and friends was hard enough, but the repercussions linger as years later in 1998, I am at a greyhound bus station’s restroom seeing a mother threatening to hit her 4 year old daughter if she doesn’t wash her hands. I want to speak as I glare from the doorway, “Please don’t yell at her: I know you may be tired, but you are scaring her and she deserves to be treated respectfully, as much as you do.” I am fearfully silent, and ashamed. Back on the bus, I see a father swat his son on the head, as I turn around and speak again only with my disapproving sad-blue eyes. I chide myself and promise to speak up the next time I see a scared child. While hiking one day, I see a mother walking way ahead of a crying 4-5 year old who is wailing, “Wait for me mommy!” I catch up to the mother and say something like, you know your daughter feels afraid that you will abandon her when you walk so far ahead. She picks up her daughter and surprises me with, “I didn’t realize she would feel that way.” I continue to hike with a lighter skip in my step. That same year of 1998, my then 6 year old granddaughter called me from California, after calling her mom in Baltimore, to get my phone number. She was visiting her other grandmother, whom had sent her to her room when she cried. She asked me to tell her grandmother Ruth that it’s okay to cry and she shouldn’t have to go to her bedroom. I was thrilled that she was courageous enough to put action into her right to cry without shame. By the 21st century, I intervene with parents, strangers in public places, feeling confident in everyone’s right to protect children. In 2013, I become a first-time actress in a local play called: PARENT STORIES. I monologue a story my ‘son-in-law’ tells me at our 2012 birthday restaurant dinner. His 8 year old son Kii was playing outdoors with his 5 year old friend where they found a coin. When it was time to leave for home, Kii began to cry when his dad said he should let his friend take the coin because he was younger. Kii shouted through his tears, “But I found the coin!” His dad said something like, “It’s not worth crying about,” to which Kii cried louder: “I’ll cry when I am 8 and I will cry when I am 21!” A month or so later after the play performance that I felt scared to be in, I met the married couple, Sarah and Godfrey, who directed Parent Stories at another play called Gypsy. Sarah emailed me a couple of days later: Godfrey was crying at Gypsy and she had said to him, “Don’t cry honey,” to which Godfrey replied, “I’ll cry when I’m 46 and I’ll cry when I’m 84.”