The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Prices We Pay

She sat alone and looking miserable, a pretty girl maybe eighteen years old in the midst of a busy Science Fiction convention.  “Sherri” was the niece of a good friend, but I didn’t know her well.  As I recall, I merely asked her if she was all right, and what was going on with her: her body language was so sad.

We just talked for a few minutes, and I sensed that there was a great depth of pain that I couldn’t reach, but that she’d been glad I’d stopped to speak to her.  Over the next years I encountered her several times, and always extended courtesy.   When I learned she was in emotional trouble once, I asked my wife (at the time) Toni if it was all right if Sherri came and stayed at our house for a couple of days.  Because she was related to a friend, Toni agreed.

I picked Sherri up from the bus depot, and took her to the house up in Canyon Country California.  Nothing very special happened, just family time.

Years passed.   I lost touch at times, but occasionally Sherri would reach out and ask if she could talk to me.  I always said yes, and was happy to.  Sweet girl.

I love Facebook.  It lets me peek into conversations other people are having.  A few months back I happened to come across a stream where Sherri was speaking of her life.  She had been horribly molested by members of her own family, never able to trust anyone.  She married and her lack of self-image brought her to a husband who did not honor and protect her, and after hard  years she separated.

In her conversation, the subject of how you find strength came up.  What hurts us, what helps.
And my name came up.   Steven Barnes, she said, was the only man she had ever known who had helped her, been kind to her, without wanting sex in return.

This guy “Barnes” was the closest thing to a real father figure she’d ever known. And knowing that one man, somewhere, was like that, could see her preciousness without demanding part of it in return for simple support and affection gave her hope.  Made her see herself differently. Gave her the balance she needed to move forward.

Dear God.  I’d had no idea.  I was just filling a gap I saw: a nice girl who was sad.  Who had a lovely smile, when she could smile.   Who extended trust, and needed something I could gladly offer.
We never know the impact of our actions.    The arena of sexual contact is so deep and wide and filled with crazy energy, tied to everything from our animal to our spiritual realms.    There is no way to make it a simple transaction like shaking hands, no matter how much society might encourage us to believe birth control and condoms and Liberation and Equality and all the rest of it has spun gold into flax.

What is the price that you have paid to fulfill yourself on this level?  Have you held yourself as precious?   What is the price you have extracted from others to share this space with you? Or…what have you withheld or offered others in exchange for access to their sexuality?

To what degree have you treated them…or yourself…the way you would want someone to treat your sister, your mother, your daughter?

If there is any tension in you when you consider that question, it would be wise to ask yourself where you got your ideas about this arena. Whether they are beliefs or values that support a healthy life and world.

Whether, if more people were as you are,  the little girls of the world would be safer.  The little boys stronger and happier and healthier.

You just never know what people are offering for kindness.   Too often, it is more than they can really afford, and it is up to YOU to set the boundaries, if you would be an awakened adult human being.

Only adults can keep the children safe.

You’re up.

Namaste, Steve

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