We teased her relentlessly, this little girl. She was more of a toy than anything else and it was so easy to find things to say that would make her squirm.
That was the best part.
She was our unwitting entertainment. Or perhaps that's what she enjoyed too.
Not that we laughed at her expense, but that she was being treated in a way that she'd never experienced--like everyone else.
A wise professor told me this story:
A young man, wheelchair-bound, was constantly given special preference for his inability to function the way normal people did. He was different and everybody, even his friends, treated him differently. Until one time, he got mad, so mad that he yelled, "Why do you never tease me like you tease everyone else?" True, he could never walk the way everyone else did, or move the way everyone else did. On the outside, he was clearly different, but inside he was just like everyone else--a teenager who wanted to fit in.As an epilogue he said that the moment they realised he was up for the typical practical jokes they played on each other they did the one thing they could do to him but could not do to anyone else: trapped him on top of the teacher's desk, wheelchair and all.
And that's what we did to her. Treated her like everyone else.
Her gift was different. And I dare to call it a gift because it is what made her the little girl we knew. She wasn't physically barred from doing things in fact she move listlessly any time she wasn't set to a task. It was a part of her gift, that. An extreme ability to focus and concentrate so completely on something that the universe disappears in an instant.
Her other gift was pure, unbridled, child-like innocence.
No, she wasn't truly a child. But she may as well have been.
We used to tell her how fortunate she was to have become friends with us, a naughty, sometimes rather unruly bunch, but honest. One does not need to be good to be honest. One simply has to be. As she was lucky to have us because we would feed her the most ridiculous lies and she would believe us.
We told her "This is how we will train you to think for yourself." One of us would tell the truth. The rest would lie. She knew we would never hurt her and she allowed us to train her. Break through her inability to discern truth from fiction. Break her until she learned to fight back.
We are often taught that once we go out in the world, we go out in the world whole but this is misleading. There will always be that one key piece that is missing and that is the final choice one has to make.
To obey or not to obey.
To learn to listen and follow the voice of one infinitely wiser, or listen and follow our own voice. Our own vice.
It is a difficult road to travel, the first one. Frost called it "the road less travelled." It isn't just about a fork in the road. There are countless less-travelled roads and more often than not, we have to make the trek alone.
When you see a path that has been used before, usually it's more attractive. You know you won't be lonely because others have gone down that route before. Exploring a new path can be terribly lonely and you never know what you might find along the way. There will be no one to warn you of possible dangers and there's no guarantee that someone will come along and find you if you get into trouble.
But if you listen, there will always be a voice telling you what you need to know.
We are, each of us, fortunate to have been granted partners to start the exploration with. But the time for hand-holding has long passed.
We must each find our way now and listen. Very carefully listen and learn to choose which voice is telling the truth. There are so many voices that will whisper different things. But only one that can be trusted.
There is a little girl going alone on her way. She stopped at the fork in the road and saw the shining lights of a distant town.
Cold and lonely, she happily ran towards the lights and true enough, she found warmth there and comfort. But there was always something missing and she had no idea what.
She still hasn't heard the voice of the one person who had gone before her.
Her father keeps calling but she doesn't hear. She can't. Because to heed his voice meant to leave the pretty lights, the warmth, the comfort. To heed his voice meant to be cold and lonely again.
He's been keeping the porch light on for her. All this time it has been glowing brightly if she would just take the time to look. It shines brighter than the lights that have so amused her.
There is a little girl. She shared the story of how cranes are supposed to be good luck. She folded little pieces of paper throughout her life, making all kinds of different things but the cranes stayed with her.
A sign of love.
A sign of life.
A sign of hope.
There is a little girl who filled a jar with cranes. One thousand cranes, they say, can grant your deepest, innermost desire. She traded the cranes for a single wish: the chance to be normal.
There is a little girl who followed her father's voice well into the wood, past it, and began wandering the fields. Wandering until she found the lights.
There is a little girl who is lost and hasn't found her way home.
There is a little girl whose father is waiting. He calls her name every day and every night. And he waits for her to answer.
He is still waiting.