I can remember the stinging in my eyes and the tightness in my throat as I held back tears. I was around 20 and working part time at a sporting goods store . (3 jobs & full time classes….what was I thinking?) A man came into the store a little before closing. After I gave him a friendly, “Welcome to Dunham’s!” he immediately came to my empty checkout lane and started calling me “baby” and “beautiful”.
Normally when something like this happens, I have an out. I can keep on walking and ignore the harassment. This encounter was in my face and I had nowhere to go.
I said, “Please don’t talk to me like that.”
“I don’t like to be called baby and beautiful by someone I don’t know.”
The man immediately changed his tone and replied,
“I can call you ugly if you want? I was just being nice. Whats wrong with you? I come in here and give you compliments and you act like a (insert not so nice name here)!”
I froze. I had nothing to say.
He ended up leaving and did not buy anything. I cried as I checkout the next customer.
I felt embarrassed, alone, intimidated and guilty.
It was only a 1/2 mile from my house. I was 17, it was late, pushing 10PM, as I went into the gas station to prepay. As soon as I walked in, a man gawked at me and made some noises. I got in the short checkout line and a second man approached me.
“When you come outside, come talk to me. I have something I want to tell you.”
“Umm, no thank you.” I quietly murmured.
“Come on baby, come talk to me outside.”
I felt extremely uncomfortable. I turned around to a man in a firefighters uniform who was inline behind me. Surly he would step in and say something. He pretended not to notice.
I made it up to the counter, paid and quickly walked to my car. Locked the doors and called someone I could trust. (Fast forward 10 years and I’m married to the man I called that night. That was our first ‘phone’ conversation, before then we only texted)
I felt surrounded, afraid, alone, nervous and insecure.
I was 17 or 18 and with my younger sister, who was 15 or 16 at the time. We were shopping at Kmart. I was in an aisle alone, when a large man began walking down the aisle towards me puckering his lips and making kissing noises.
At first I thought he was mentally handicapped so I tried not to stare. When he began saying “Come here! Come here!” and jogging towards me I took off in the opposite direction.
I knew I should probably tell a manager but all I wanted to do was find my sister and get out of there. I found her in a different aisle and without any explanation I told her we had to go…right now! I was looking over my shoulder the whole way to the car. I did not tell her what happened until we were safely in the car with the doors locked.
I felt frighted and anxious.
I am 27. It was only last summer when I was at Walmart. A man from Frito-Lay was stocking the chips in the aisle as I waited to checkout. He started the typical old man flirting “Why aren’t you smiling? ” and “Don’t hit me with your cart!” as I politely smiled and nodded.
A few hours later I was at Meijer, which is only down the road. I was grocery shopping when I saw the same Frito-Lay man from earlier. He looked at me and said “I remember you! I never forget a pretty face.” It made me uncomfortable but I tried to ignore it.
6 months later I see him again at Meijer and he says “I remember” as I walk by.
I see him time and time again in the chip aisle at Meijer. If I’m shopping alone, I avoid the aisle all together. I feel anxious as I approach the aisle, hoping he is not there. My body tightens as I try to think of something I could say to him that will make him stop.
Maybe he is just a friendly guy? Maybe he means no harm?
But he makes me uncomfortable…..
Those are the only stories I can remember. Thinking about them now I can vividly remember how scared and alone I felt. I am so thankful that my stories are only those of verbal harassment and not anything more serious. There are so many times when other women are not as fortunate.
This world is a scary place. The older I get, the more I am aware of the sinful nature of those around me. I get so frustrated when I hear about abuse and harassment on the news. What is wrong with people? How could someone do that?
Reflecting on these memories I thought of 3 questions:
I don’t have all the answers but I know God and I know where to begin to try and understand.
What is the balance between looking past the disgusting sinful nature of man and having the love of God for them?
The Bible commands us to love our enemies.
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Romans 17-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
What is the balance between being aware of my surroundings and being terrified when alone in public?
We should be aware of our surroundings and not knowingly go into dangerous situations, but we don’t need to walk around in fear. The Bible tells us to fear not!
Psalm 42:5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Isaiah 41: 10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
What is the balance between knowing that God will protect me and understanding that there are evil people in this world?
Although God has the power to protect us from evil and He has the power to deliver us out of any situation, it may not be his will to do so.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
We are tossed and driven
on the restless sea of time;
somber skies and howling tempests
oft succeed a bright sunshine;
in that land of perfect day,
when the mists are rolled away,
we will understand it better by and by.
By and by, when the morning comes,
when the saints of God are gathered home,
we’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
for we’ll understand it better by and by.
Trials dark on every hand,
and we cannot understand
all the ways of God would lead us
to that blessed promised land;
but he guides us with his eye,
and we’ll follow till we die,
for we’ll understand it better by and by.
We’ll Understand It Better By and By
Charles Albert Tindley