We were next at the checkout line when she told me she needed to spit out her gum. "My teeth are hurting because this is old, momma".
The garbage can was just a few feet away from me; she never had to leave my line of vision. She did have to walk in front of the elderly gentleman seated quietly on the bench next to the trash can. It never occurred to me that there would be any problem with that.
I began to unload and scan my groceries as she bounced away, half skipping, half dancing. She was oblivious to anyone else around her really, humming away as usual. I glanced up just as she walked in front of the man, just in time to see him glare at her. What happened next was not anything I would have imagined.
The old man, still glaring at my daughter, pulled his head back and proceeded to spit on my daughter.
Let that sink in.
He spit on my girl.
I saw red.
Ellie skipped back to me, and I turned her around to make sure I had actually seen what I thought I had seen. Sure enough, there was his spit on her t-shirt. I asked her if she had felt it, and she said no.
"Why would he do that, momma?".
That's the same question I had, but I sure didn't want to have to explain it to her. I shouldn't HAVE to explain it to her. No one should. Yet here we were, and she was watching me to see how I was going to react. She was waiting to see if she was worth taking up for.
Let me assure you that she is.
Let me assure you that I did exactly that- take up for her.
I approached the old man and asked him why he had done that. His answer,
"I don't like her kind".
I leaned in really close to him, just inches away from his face and told him exactly what I thought of his actions. I told him in no uncertain terms what I'd do if he so much as looked at her again.
She reached for my hand as we drove home, and I saw the tears in her eyes as she said "Why doesn't he like me? I wasn't even bothering him". My heart was broken at the idea of even having to have this conversation. But I needed her to hear this, to really let this sink in: "There is NOTHING wrong with you. He is the problem".
I need for her to understand that his ignorance and hatred toward her is not a cloak she has to button up and wear around. Who she is was determined by her Maker, not by the actions of a nasty old man who thrives off of bitterness. She is love, life, happiness, beauty, courage, strength, and peace. She is a conquerer. She is whole. She is a daughter of the Most High King, a real live princess. He cannot change who she is because who she is was accomplished in Christ.
I need for her to know that NO ONE has the right to treat her poorly. No one has the right to inflict harm upon her. I need her to know that she has a voice too, and she can speak against injustice. So we practiced shouting "You don't have the right to hurt me. No one does!". And we laughed together at how dumb some people can be. And as I held her, I prayed that her heart is protected against the hurling darts that are bound to come against her again at some point in life. I pray she knows that her home here is a haven against that. Always.
I realize that there are people who believe that prejudice doesn't exist in this world. Well, they are wrong. It DOES exist. And what my daughter experienced today is nothing compared to the atrocities that happen to people all over the world.
I cannot be silent. I cannot sit and allow some idiot to spit at my daughter as if she were an object and not a little girl. I won't stand for it. Because if I do, I'm just as much a part of the problem as that old man. If I sit silently and allow prejudice to go unchecked, refusing to call it what it is, then I'm as disgusting as that sputum hurled across a store on the back of an innocent little girl. I refuse to live like that.
Our daughters and sons, neighbors, friends, and strangers are watching to see how we will respond to this. If we call ourselves followers of Christ, we best be acting like him. And I know Christ wouldn't stand idly by and watch a grown man hurl a loogie at a little girl because he "doesn't like her kind".
There are times that anger is called for. I'd go so far as to say that anger is holy at times. And necessary. And quite frankly, I'm angry.
It's time to take a stand. I'm in; are you?