Last updated on July 15th, 2022 at 01:47 pm
I have not always lived the seemingly perfect, American dream life …
And for this reason, I cannot abide wrongs perpetrated upon the weakest and most vulnerable of the world’s population.
You may not feel the way I feel about children.
You may prefer your amazing dog or furriest feline to the company of crazy loud, question-asking, eye-rolling, cracker crunching, muddy-footed small humans, and that’s super-wonderful.
The idea of visiting friends who were interesting and fun before they started talking about the contents of diapers and prices of pre-school or the best jog stroller on the market may make you block their phone number from your cell and ignore their email.
Still, with me, all is just peachy about your views as a productive, non-reproductive member of society.
What I first want everyone to remember is that before you rescued, adopted, or paid for your pedigreed pooch, your catnip-loving kitty, or invested in your fabulous saltwater aquarium, you had to be an adult.
Next, please recall that in order to be an adult, you first had to be a child, so even if you don’t so much dig ‘em, you were one. Finally, and this is the big one, we must stop the evil that is child abuse, in all of its hideous forms. I admit to being one of those women who would rather be in the presence of babies and children over most any adult that ever walked the face of the earth Children are magical, sparkly, hilarious, fascinating creatures who define pure love, to me.
The beauty of childhood can be easily stolen. Like taking candy from a baby.
It’s not solely about what may happen to the abused child in his or her future that occupies my thoughts the most. For me, it’s about the violated little person, and what happens in the horrible and confusing moments that the sexual abuse creeps and crawls into a once precious life that changes you forever and instantly.
At least, that’s how I felt on my Sunday school bus as a six-year-old little girl when the pastor’s son placed me on his lap and used to rub his nasty, rotten man hands on the outside and underneath my underpants on the way to church.
God the pain.
I’m speaking of both the trust-crushing blow as well as the urinary tract infections I would regularly get as a result of this awful man’s persistent and violent way of satisfying the darkest part of human existence.
This young man befriended me, and what I now have learned is known as “groomed” me as a little girl. He singled me out with gifts of candy, told me how much prettier than all of the other little girls I was, and when I was wearing a particular dress that made my blue eyes so, so blue made me feel very important. Before he put his hands on me, I used to wake up extra early to look my very best for the pastor’s son.
I believe he was aware of my workaholic, absentee father and my all-too-happy to have me out of her hair for a whole Sunday, mother, who, by the way, neither walked me to the bus stop nor attended church herself.
Guess this made me easy prey.
To add more insult to injury, the pastor’s wife, and yes this was the pastor’s son’s mother, was my Sunday school teacher. The ridiculous, gutting, irony may seem a bit much, I know, but it was lost on this six-year-old.
What wasn’t escapable was at the conclusion of every Sunday, in what was referred to as “Little Church” in what seemed an ever-so-far distance from “Big Church,” the pastor’s wife would ask in the world’s softest, most lilting, nearly whispering and hypnotic voice for all of us children to
“bow our heads…shhh and close our eyes, shhh…if there’s anyone here today who is not certain…shhh…with heads bowed, and eyes closed, that he or she will enter into the glory of Heaven, shhh…”
She walked up and down the little aisle with her mouth close to the microphone, chanting,
“One hundred percent sure that if you were to die today…with heads bowed and eyes closed, if you are a sinner and haven’t accepted Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior into your heart, shhh, just quietly raise your hand.”
On she carried, scaring the bejeezus out of me,
“If you have sinned against your mother and father if you have shhh… harbored hatred in your heart for anyone, if you have not asked forgiveness, raise your hand now, shhh, okay very good I see you.”
While I always raised my hand, I wasn’t always chosen to go into one of the special little side rooms with one of the youth representatives, to talk about my sins and become “saved.” When on the three or so occasions I was chosen, the pastor’s son was my counsel. Perhaps surprisingly, the only damage perpetrated behind the closed door was the pastor’s son’s recommendation for me to have my mother sign the piece of paper that said I could be baptized soon.
My mother signed the note and was not present a couple of Sundays later when I was stripped down to my underpants, dressed in a white gown, and lead into “Big Church” where the pastor lifted me into a large sort of tub, pinched my nose and dunked me under the water.
Soon after my big day, the pastor’s son went back to Bible college to continue to study to become a pastor himself.
I had to take pills that made my glass shards pee orange and was told that I couldn’t take bubble baths anymore. Also, I believe part of me died a fiery death in the pits of hell during this time at the Baptist church, amen.
Sharing this story may not seem like part of Living my American Dream, but it truly is.
Leaving all of the why’s of this disgusting-ness alone and to the psychologists and Oprah, I have turned my focus to living out my dreams despite the damage some evil-doers may have tried to permanently inflict upon my soul.
Innocence was brutally taken from me back then for sure, but my childhood was not a lovely one, to begin with, so I don’t mourn that loss.
Turns out they couldn’t take away what was really at the heart of this person. . . love.
Love is why I share this. Love for children and love for hope. I have hope that I can, through writing about life out here in the vineyard, with the amazing blessings of my husband and children, our little farm and farmer friends, I can continue to do as Gandhi said and
“Be the change I want to see in the world.“
My recovery is ongoing, just like life.
And while a huge part of my success has come with starting my own family, I want to continue to build on my deeply personal dream of having affected real change in the lives of this wonderful world’s children. I will write, I will pray, I will love.
I ask you to offer up your gifts too. If your gift is writing, please use your words. If your gift is music, please sing and play. Use your gift, pray to God, send healing affirmations for all children into the Universe, and be kind.
Shellie Croft is a wine enologist, family vineyard worker, mother, wife, amazing cook, and a live-the-American-dream enthusiast in the wine region of Willamette Valley, Oregon.
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