Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Lesson From Heathcliff

Heathcliff is such a horrible monster in "Wuthering Heights". How depressing to believe any human being could be so absolutely treacherous. As I read the novel, I actually found myself looking forward to the page where he would get his due.....right in the teeth. As for Cathy, Linton, and Hareton who were tortured by the man, my heart hurt for their tribulation and the abuse they endured.

I read the final page two days ago and have pondered the work of art intermittently since. Anyone familiar with the Bronte sisters knows their lives were tragic. The authors each shared pieces of their own stories through their brilliant writing. Their father was a pastor who enjoyed spending the majority of his time in solitude (even meals) and who occasionally displayed harsh temperment with the children. He was left with the sole responsibility of raising his kids when their mother died very early in life, however his lack of physical attachment to his offspring, left them to rely solely on one another. The girls were sent to a boarding school that was so harsh, two of the sisters died. And their brother was a calamity, a misfit, and an alcoholic. Isn't it fascinating how much our "rearing" impacts the people we become? Heathcliff. How is it possible to write such a deranged figure?

A thinker, I have disected Heathcliff a couple of hundred times by now. He was an abandoned orphan taken in by an established family, favored by two in his new home but greatly disliked by the others. He looked different and had a mischievous spirit which caused some trouble. He suffered much hidden abuse and torment at the hand of his elder brother and was eventually banished from home as a young teenager following his father's death. Heathcliff wasn't seen again until years later upon his mysterious return. And the icing on the cake: his one and only true love, his best friend and "sister", ended up married to another. A knife in the back, she married one who believed Heathcliff a rogue. But, still, I question: why all the abhorrent violence and hatred from this character?

I know the readers are probably questioning why I care so very much about a fictional character. I guess my quandry is that I believe the infamous Heathcliff isn't so "fiction". I have witnessed anger like Heathcliff's. I have walked in Cathy's shoes.

My mom has worked in the public school system for over 30 years. Her school, presently, holds all the elementary aged "behavior" children in her county. While all of the children exhibit issues with obeying authority, most have also been abused....some physically, others sexually, but most all have experienced emotional abuse. The impact on their lives can be seen when they self-mutilate or when they exercise "power" by refusing the teacher's plea. Broken children exhibiting broken behavior. I guess a better question should be: why would anyone be surprised by questionable behavior exhibited by children who have endured abuse?

I decided to enter the State Senate race because our present Senator, Jack Johnson, proposed a bill that would have allowed educators the right to restrain and lock special education children in isolation rooms. My choice was to either stand on the sidelines and talk about the upside down nature of the bill or to "act" and attempt to do something about it. I have a tough time understanding why anyone would want to restrain and lock an already abused child into a room when statistics prove this type of "intervention" only serves to exacerbate the subject more. In the thought process, it has occurred to me, this type of "intervention" could possibly create real-life "Heathcliffs" of the world. Abusing the already abused doesn't seem like a workable remedy to me.

Through Natalie, I have personally witnessed a transformation from "old" to "new" that came through countless days of patience and restraint on my part.....days of searching for and then affirming the positive in Nat's life while avoiding the long list of negatives that stared me in the face each day....offering silence when I felt like screaming in horror....being a shoulder to lean on instead of a shoulder that shuns....and an ear who will listen even when the ramblings did not make alot of sense. Little Natalie was tortured with electric shocks in an orphanage in Russia for three years before we were able to rescue her. The shocks were used as a form of "discipline". Today, I do not have a doubt, she would be a very different person if she had been left in that pit. Who knows? She might have become a "Heathcliff" herself.

Today I was deeply moved as I walked out of our local meat and three restaurant, one we frequent nearly every day of the week. As usual, we were greeted by owner Tim who loves to give Hopey "knuckles", only today was different, she threw her arms around his neck for a big old hug. Our food was superb as expected, topped off by the best strawberry shortcake in the world. Linda, an employee and chief baker, made her customary stop at our usual table to say hello and request a Hollis Family update. After a few moments of exchange, she mentioned: "Looks like we will be adding two more."

I knew what she was referring to and quickly retorted with: "Hey, you told me to remind you it would be insane to ever add anymore children to your home if you said those words again."

Linda has the sweetest smile. She placed her hand to her cheek and said in her laughing way: "Oh, I know, but these two really need a chance."

The two brothers, ages fourteen and sixteen, will make foster children number 64 and 65 to enter Linda's home, to experience her hugs, to sit at a meal around her table.

I walked out of the "Cool Cafe" today with a skip in my step. There are hundreds of Heathcliffs and Natalie's in the world who are longing for that four letter word, they just don't know about it until it is shown to them. Restraining Heathcliff and locking him in an isolation room wouldn't change Heathcliff.....the love and hope of God shown through a believer might though.

What a privilege it should be for us to look for ways to spread hope to the world. Call me a dreamer if you like, but I tend to think of myself as a "faither". In my string of thoughts ranging from Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights" to Natalie's adoption; from a lunch at the "Cool Cafe" to the impending State Senate Race, I have come to one firm, unshakeable belief: I, Melanie Hollis, absolutely believe in an Almighty God who DESIRES to bring about change, ushering hope into the lives of the ones others consider hopeless, working miracles and touching lives through the vessels He affectionately calls "the redeemed" every day. I want to be that vessel, don't you?

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