This reflection is based on the actual experience of a young person I encountered in my therapeutic work.
The summer day arrived where the child entered this world. The mother laid hemorrhaging, barely conscious, and the child upon birth was whisked away from the mother to the neo-natal unit. The sounds of medical equipment, the frantic voices of the medical staff, bright lights, and poking and prodding by invasive medical instruments greeted the child’s entry to the world. From the hospital, the child would enter the family’s home for the first time. Once again only to be subjected to grave brutality as on the night he entered the home, his father intoxicated begins to savagely beat the mother. “I told you to shut up!” the father shouts and with a loud crack across the mother’s cheek, she falls to the ground clutching the infant in her arms. And this would continue day after day until the police one day arrived to escort the father to a long incarceration for his violent crimes and drug possession.
A few days before the arrest, the mother leaves the home to obtain groceries for the family. She instructs the father to bathe the child and place him in bed. The father once again becoming intoxicated places the child in the bathtub but too sedated to realize the temperature of the water, scalds the child, and he is left with a large burn upon the side of his head. A scar that still remains both physically and emotionally.
For the next four years, the child barely speaks. The trauma of his world has muted him. The mother in desperation seeks for another relationship that will ease the financial burden and maybe find her the fulfillment she has longed for. But again, she stumbles into an abusive relationship.
The new man in her life is more a monster than the first. Day after day he subjects the child to demeaning words.”You retard! Why can’t you do anything right?” “If you don’t get out of here, I will smash your head in.” One night the child sees the mother and her boyfriend fighting and shoving one another. He goes to bed only to awaken to find the mother and her boyfriend sitting at the breakfast table casually chatting. He asks about the night before. “What are you talking about? You must have been dreaming.”
The child dazes off confused and questioning his sense of reality. Was it a dream? The child became the scapegoat for the family. “If we never had you around, life would be good.” “You are the one who causes all the problems.” “Look what you have made your sister into.” Day after day, his esteem plummets to nothing.
The family continues their civil war. The demons of hopelessness and despair overtake the child. His light is nearly extinguished. The child begins to curse God. Where is God in this? Why must I endure this pain and turmoil. He expects to hear God speak to him, but he hears nothing. God appears distant, or maybe dead. The child has no voice and no relationships. No one to console him, no one to hear his cries.
And God too does not respond to his pleas. But even in this darkest night of his soul, the light is not extinguished. The child encounters one who for the first time hears his voice, and he begins to embark on a journey of renewal. The war around him has not ended, nor is there a cease fire to come, but the child through this alliance begins to realize that he is loved and that he is heard. He is encouraged to find value in himself. He looks deeply within and finds that life is impermanent. He begins to understand the cumulative sufferings we all endure.
But in this he realizes that there is a better way. The way out does not exist in self-destruction. Death and despair is not a better way but merely an escape. He begins to realize that he cannot change circumstances, he cannot change others, but he can change himself and he can change his mind. The child begins to lay aside the cumulative traumas. They no longer torment him but become an opportunity for sharing and growth. He unites his sufferings to the sufferings of others and realizes that his experience is valuable and maybe through his experience, he may lead but another soul out of the darkness.