Today’s Challenge: An experience that made me who I am today
Yep, you saw that right. A visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s changed my life.
I was in elementary school, and my Mema & Papa (mom’s parents) took me to Chuck E. Cheese one Friday night. I can still remember having a lot of fun – they completely spoiled me with plenty of pizza and tokens, and patiently followed me around playing games with me.
As it got later we decided to head back home. Mema, who might have weighed 95 pounds soaking wet, walked in front of me, and Papa followed behind us, having held the door open for us to walk through. We had barely taken a few steps out of the door when it happened. Suddenly Mema was shoved brusquely to the ground as a woman ripped her purse from her arm and took off around the corner to what we later found out was the getaway car. My grandfather followed after them, but seconds later I saw a car zoom by, out of the parking lot and away from us.
That one moment changed me. For years afterward I would always walk beside my mom or Mema on the side where their purse was, holding on to it and hoping to help prevent something happening again. I was suddenly cautious of the world, wondering who else out there might do something so cruel without a moment’s warning. I had nightmares, not of the purse snatching, but of some other faceless person coming to kidnap me.
The nightmares stopped, and I eventually stopped worrying about something happening again. It didn’t scar me – I’m a happy, optimistic person. I’m still fairly cautious to this day, though, and I’ll always wonder if part of it can be attributed back to that night.
Even though that experience was a horrible one for me at the time, what happened afterward affected me profoundly in a way for which I will always be thankful.
The purse snatcher was eventually caught and put in jail – I think some good Samaritan had followed the car and gotten the license plate that night, although I’m a little vague on exactly how she was caught. I remember feeling relief that she was behind bars, and a little vindication that she would be punished for what she had done.
Then I heard that Mema had gone to visit the woman. I couldn’t believe it – the idea of it was scary to me at the time. But what amazed my little elementary school self most was that Mema hadn’t gone to yell at her, or to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing her behind bars.
She went to offer forgiveness. And that simple act has stuck with me my entire life.