Sunday, October 27, 2013

bad thing doesn't define her

A six-year-old was kidnapped and molested in 1999. This is almost the worst thing parents can imagine happening to a child. Not the worst, surely. We've all known parents who have lost children to death through illness or accident. Some of us know parents who have lost children to murder or suicide. Ranking terrible events on a scale of 1 to 10 is a pointless endeavor.

A child kidnapped and molested, though. I can only imagine the parents' terror. 

The kidnapper was never caught.

What happened when she was home again?
For the most part, Chris and Mindy [the parents] tried to keep life as normal as possible.
“We thought it was best,” said Chris. 
“I wanted her to be Haley Who Went to School and Was a Dancer and a Cheerleader, not Haley the Girl Who Was Kidnapped,” said Mindy. 
They didn't treat their little girl as if she was forever damaged. They kept life as normal as possible.
Some people were critical. They thought Chris and Mindy should have kept a tighter leash on their daughter.  
Yes, there is always someone who thinks they can see more clearly while standing outside. 
But the Herzogs were so grateful, they ignored the criticism and went on with life. 
Haley went to school. She ran the neighborhood. She threw herself into a million activities at Millard South. She was a cheerleader, a thespian, sang in show choir. She played violin in a local youth symphony and she wrote for the school newspaper.
Terrible things happen but we don't have to stay stuck in terrible. Learning how to recover can help us the next time life serves up something awful. Teaching our children how to recover--without labeling them as damaged goods--is a wonderful gift.
Haley, like the others at Millard South in 2011, found a way to cope after a fellow student shot and killed a beloved assistant principal, injured the principal and then turned the gun on himself.
I'm only guessing but perhaps her earlier experience of a terrible event followed by life as normal as possible helped her to deal with the school shooting twelve years later. Perhaps she was able to help other students when that happened.
And here's what she wants you to know: A bad thing happened to her. But it doesn't define her. 
Nope. She and her parents have made sure of that. 


Shelomith Stow said...

Marie, this is a wonderful, beautiful, so-very-important message. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us.

Jean H said...

My daughter deels the same way. People keep trying to tell her that she's forever damaged, and that she only forgives her abuser because other people have pushed her to, not because she wanted to.

"A bad thing happened, but it doesn't define her" has been her mantra since she disclosed her abuse. She forgave her abuser on her own - mainly because he took ownership for his actions and didn't try to place any blame on her.

Dani said...

From experience I can tell you that forgiving your abuser is most often done for the victim not for the one who committed the crimes against them.Through therapy we learn that sometimes it is needed in order for us to move on.I have not fared as well as the girl in this article although my life is good and I'm grateful for that.This is a wonderful post thank you so much for it.