Have you seen the movie, Crazy in Alabama? The movie, which is set in a small Alabama town in 1965 at the height of the Civil Rights movement, alternates between eccentric comedy and serious drama. It tells two parallel stories. One of a free-spirited woman who kills her abusive husband and heads for Hollywood, where she’s convinced that television stardom awaits her. The other involves a group of Black students protesting the town’s racially segregated municipal swimming pool, leading to a protest that explodes into deadly violence. As I watched, the title kept popping into my mind. I asked myself, “Who really is more absolutely, insanely crazy here, the murdering woman or the racist townspeople?”
That got me to thinking about an incident I witnessed while on a cruise with my family many years ago. This is a sad story that continues to haunt me, and one that ultimately has inspired me to create compassionate connections.
On the cruise ship a family passed me in the hallway all dressed up for an elegant dinner and heading away from the ballroom. A 5 or 6 year old girl kept saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I won’t do it again.” Her father just responded sternly, “No, its too late.” The mother walked beside them in silence. The girl was obviously terrified. At the time it sent shivers down my spine. My assumption was that they were going back to their room so her father could give her a good whipping. I walked on embarassed to be witnessing another family’s “private matters” and pretended that I didn’t see a thing in that way that our society has so effectively taught us.
Later, as I sat at dinner, I thought about what happened. Did her father not see the terror he was inflicting on his daughter? It didn’t matter to me what the little girl did. What mattered to me was the little girl. I deeply regretted not saying anything.
That memory continues to impact me today. I’ve thought about what would have happened had I said something. The father might have ignored me and moved on. He might have turned his wrath on me. Or, I could have made a significant difference in a little girl’s life.
Who in your life do you have the most impact on? Are you creating the quality of connection with them that you enjoy?