“Nobody’s Looking:” Michelle Knight’s Message for Me

I browsed through a local consignment store, hoping to find an armchair that would fit my family room (and my budget.) My mind was focused on the floor plan of that space and mentally calculating the family members who will gather to watch the Ohio State- Michigan game in a  few weeks.

As I wandered toward the back of the store, two of the ladies who worked there began chatting. Their conversation focused on Dr. Phil’s recent interview with kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight…

hollywoodreporter.com

hollywoodreporter.com

“She said that he tied her up on the bed. She was naked,” one woman said.
“Really?” replied the other. “That’s horrible!”
“I know. And he chained her. He assaulted her and he left her in a room with spoiled food, full of flies…she never got to take a shower…”
“She didn’t? That’s awful!”

Their conversation was punctuated by groans of disbelief. I understood their incredulity. I had seen portions of the interview and was horrified to learn of the unspeakable humiliation and heinous physical abuse endured by the women in that horrible home.

But a different part of the interview stabbed my heart. I stood, motionless, next to secondhand upholstery, recalling her description…

Knight said that her captor used words in an attempt to break her spirit: “Where’s your family? Why don’t you have any? They must not really love you. Your family don’t care about you. You never had a family that loves you. And that’s the reason why I hate you, because I can abuse you and nobody would care.”

And then this crushing blow: “Nobody’s looking — you won’t even be missed when you do die.”

Nobody’s looking.

The gravity of that statement crushed and convicted me at that moment, as I stood in a store full of surplus…searching for extra chairs.

I should be searching for extra people.

Too many people are missing from our neighborhood barbecues, our churches, our dinner tables. They may not be chained to beds in cold rooms, but perhaps they’re bound by loneliness or disability or addiction. Maybe they’re slaves to work, or immobilized by the grief from death or divorce. Whatever has captured them… they’re missing.

I want them to hear us..

Hang on! We’re going to find you….

We’re looking.

We have a chair for you.

theguardian.com

theguardian.com

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Why the “No Candy Letter” lady makes me disappointed…with myself

Apparently, a woman from Fargo, North Dakota, has decided that she’ll dole out a little tough love on Halloween. Oh, she plans to give candy to some of the kids who knock at her door. But to others, she’ll give this letter, with instructions to hand it to their parents:
Halloween Letter

When I heard about this, my blood began to boil. I simply don’t believe in publicly humiliating children.

It’s tricky to dole out treats when we waste time trying to figure out who’s worthy, and who’s too fat.

And then I started thinking about how I might be more like the No Candy Letter lady than I thought.

How many times have I made assumptions about someone based on outward appearance? How often do I make sure that only I give the “treats” with which I’ve been entrusted…my knowledge, my time, my energy and resources…to those who I deem worthy? When did I last I go out of my comfort zone to invite people into our home, our church, our lives?

And that’s not all.

How many times have I spoken about something that was none of my business, just because I believed that I had all the answers? Which of my neighbors or acquaintances might need my help, rather than my judgment or my opinion? Whose behavior have I  dismissed as annoying…or pathological…when it’s a cry for attention, or support, or acceptance?

That lady said she’s disappointed in her village. I’m disappointed in me.

Who can see the Light of the World when it’s being blocked by layers of No Candy Letters?

Instead of judging, I could try listening.
Instead of scoffing, I could offer a tissue. Or a casserole. Or a hug.
Rather than making assumptions, I could build a relationship, and find out the whole story…and learn how I can help.
Instead of a No Candy Letter, I can generously dole out sweets on Halloween…and organize a hike or a game of kickball or an afternoon of jumping in the leaves…and invite my neighbors to share a meal.

From now on, I won’t be wasting time deciding who is good enough.
I’ll be too busy loving my neighbors.

Photo courtesy The Atlantic

When Halloween is really tricky…

DSCI0550

In just a few days, little goblins will be ringing my doorbell. I can’t wait…I really love seeing kids having fun, all dressed up in costume, and so excited to go home and sort out their treats!

However, for many families, Halloween is really not all that much fun. Special needs can throw a wrench into this holiday, making it a rough day for everyone. For some kids, costumes are itchy, or have unfamiliar textures that make them feel uneasy. For others, the concept of dressing up feels uncomfortable. One mom of a child with autism confided, “My daughter really doesn’t like to pretend to be someone she’s not.” Some children may have difficulty navigating wet lawns and uneven pavement in the dark, while others feel frustrated because they’re sensitive or allergic to many of the popular treats they collect. Finally, those who struggle socially are often left out of trick-or-treating groups or Halloween parties. One dad found out that every child in the neighborhood was invited to a pumpkin party…except his son. When another neighbor asked the party host about it, she simply replied. “Oh. We really don’t care for him. So he’s not invited.”

While we can’t control the hearts and minds of everyone in the neighborhood, we can easily make a few modifications to our Halloween practices that can help everyone feel welcome and included. Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Consider giving your trick-or-treaters fair warning if you enjoy a spooky Halloween. Perhaps you can post a sign that points to your front door that warns, “Those who want a fun Halloween scare, go this way…” and another sign that points to your back door that indicates, “Those who prefer a friendly face, please go this way.” Have your spouse or a teen helper take over that station, and parents can help their kids decide which choice is best.
  • If you are aware that kids in your neighborhood have food sensitivities, consider offering a choice of candy or pocket money. Tie up a couple of shiny dimes or a quarter in a Halloween bag for kids who can’t have candy.
  • Chat with your kids about their Halloween plans, and gently suggest they include someone who may not have plans. The child who is invited may refuse, but for kids who are frequently left out of such activities, the invitation alone is priceless.
  • Invite a child who can’t trick-or-treat to hang out with you for a couple of hours. For kids whose health is fragile or for those who have disabilities that make trick-or-treating impractical, a special invitation to your house could make a tremendous difference. In addition, this might allow parents to assist others in the family with Halloween activities…or just have a couple of hours of rest.
  • Go easy on kids’ manners. In the best of circumstances, Halloween is exciting and overwhelming. For kids who struggle with language, impulse control or social skills, waiting for their turn politely or saying, “thank you so much” just might not happen. Be sure to send every kid off with a warm, and heart-felt, “Thank you for coming…I was so happy to see you!”

None of these ideas is ground-breaking of course…just a few simple ways to spread a little love and “treat” your neighbors to a great Halloween. Enjoy!
~Katie

Annie and Bill getting ready for trick-or-treating...just a month before our move to Ohio

Annie and Bill getting ready for trick-or-treating…1998