How many days, years, events, or heartbreaks, had led up to this one moment?
Had it happened before?
How many times had she promised “Never again!”?
No doubt she had meant it every time.
But each time, life kept creeping back in and, in just the way life does, taunting her, telling her she may as well, because she was worthless anyway.
Teachers who didn’t care.
Ministers who preached shame.
Boys who forced sex too early (or were they men? and how many had there been??).
She probably hadn’t experienced all of those, but how many heartbreaks does it take to shatter a soul when she lives in a society that sees her as “less than” because of the color of her skin, the cadence of her speech, or the neighborhood where she lives?
Perhaps she had been born into poverty, with little hope of escaping the cycle of poverty and violence that traps far too many innocent souls in this country where we profess faith in God but routinely fail to protect the orphan, the widow, and the poor.
Perhaps she’d been sent to under-funded schools, where we unrealistically expect kids to succeed, insisting they can pull themselves out of poverty by their own bootstraps.
But how was she to learn if she hadn’t eaten since school lunch the day before and if she had been kept awake all night by cold, fear, and the gnawing pangs of hunger?
How old did she have to be to realize she’d never own the boots she was to use to pull herself out?
Surely she knew before she was a teenager that the odds of winning a lottery jackpot were better.
Why bother trying?
And so, in a hopeless place where most everything indicated she had no value to our society, she did the best she could.
She did what she had to do.
She struggled to get by.
And I, having not ever for even one millisecond stood in her shoes, I have no right to judge her as she walks home from the liquor store, drinking from the bottle in a brown paper bag, Thursday morning, 8:26.
shavua tov, jen