Sunday, June 5, 2011

At the Dog Park, Encountering the Wounds of Christ

I took our puggle to the dog park near the river today, passing by a group of young men with vulgar language and scary tattoos. On their necks were tattoos of guns and bullets and blood.  

I took a seat on the bench beside a pregnant woman, pregnant, I learned in our conversation, by one of the young men in the group and to whom she referred to as her husband. Our dogs frolicked and she and I shared some laughs. Then, she started to talk to me, really talk to me.  I am not sure why she shared so much, and yet, as she spoke,  I felt I was being asked to listen. And so I did.

She's  29 and eight months pregnant with her fourth child. Her 11-year-old daughter, who stood before us smiling and jumping rope, has the same luminous blue eyes as her mother, who I will call Dora. Dora told me how, when her own sister turned 15, she stopped menstruating. She and her mother finally took the sister to the clinic, and discovered the girl was seven months pregnant. Her sister had no boyfriends, and never left the house unsupervised. How could she be pregnant? Dora suspected her step-father, who had molested but never raped her. But her mother refused to acknowledge he might have raped her other daughter. I interrupted her to ask if it was okay her own daughter was listening. "She knows the whole story," Dora said. "She's my best friend."

When her sister's  baby girl was born, Dora said, she looked exactly like her step-father. Dora has been estranged from her mother for years. The step-father, she said,  never raped her. "But I was tough and a fighter." I could see that by the way she spoke. Her toughness, I told her, was a gift that had protected her. "But my sister wasn't as tough," she answered.

This spring,  Dora told me, her step-father killed himself in the attic of her mother's house. Dora believes his conscience finally got to him. She told me the details of his suicide and his funeral.

As she was talking I realized I needed to be a presence to this young woman, a loving presence. I had little to say to her. "And now you know my story, Allison," she said to me as she headed out of the dog park and back to the group of men. "And now you can tell other young women to be careful of their step-fathers."

"I will pray for you and your baby and your family," I said to her. "I hope to see you again."

Hundreds of years ago, Thomas a Kempis wrote in his Imitation of Christ:

You have here no lasting home. You are a stranger and a pilgrim wherever you may be, and you shall have no rest until you are wholly united with Christ...

If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly things, direct your thoughts to Christ’s passion and willingly behold His sacred wounds.

During my unexpected encounter with Dora, I felt as if Christ were showing me His wounds. He still suffers for us and with us. I will pray for Dora, her unborn son, her three children, the soul of her step-father. And I will pray for her husband and his friends, who left in their cars and were followed out of the park by a police car with its sirens flashing silently. 


  1. Wow, Allison...this is heart wrenching. So many people need real Love. If we could only help them look in the right place!

  2. I do believe God brings people into our lives and that we can be a presence to them.

  3. A powerfully moving telling of this important encounter, Allison. It's beautiful to think that she knew she could open to you, that she needed to, and that you received it with love and prayer. She already seems to be in a good place about all of it, but I do ache for her and all those who suffer such things. Imagine, her 11-year-old being her best friend. At first that hurt me, that such a young girl could not be ready for this kind of emotional weight. But no doubt mom wants her to be conscious of such things. How sad.

  4. Ruth: Yes, I think it is her way of protecting her child. The child seemed very happy, which was beautiful to see. She feels safe.

  5. Wow, that was a lot for her to share with you. She must have needed to share it. Good thing you were a thoughtful listener.

  6. I tend to feel depressed and helpless in those situations, but I like how you brought it back into a positive light by being enlightened by Christ's gaping wounds. No doubt her guardian angel sent her to you to ask for prayers. I will keep her in my prayers as well.

  7. Thank you for sharing such a touching experience. You are an approachable person with a wonderful ability to listen. Both of those "gifts" allowed you to be there for this young woman.- What you do for the least of my children you do for me.

  8. Dee: Thank you so much for your kind words....