Hope was a close friend of mine when I was a child. We drifted apart as I got older, I’m not sure what happened, really. Life, I suppose.
She had two sisters. They were absolutely inseparable. She brought them with her wherever she went. People loved her younger sister, Joy. She was a bright little thing, pretty, all smiles, and so much fun. She was eager for any adventure and so enthusiastic about life. It was absolutely contagious.
Nobody was quite as fond of her older sister, Charity, though. She made everyone a bit uncomfortable. But you couldn’t invite Hope over without expecting Charity and Joy to show up, too. That was just the way they were.
Charity was nice enough, I suppose, but she had this way of making you feel like you were missing something. I don’t know what it was about her but you just felt like you ought to be doing something useful or worthwhile whenever she showed up. And it wasn’t anything she said, you know, it was just the way she was, the way she behaved.
She was so eager to give to everyone around her that you felt bad whenever you didn’t feel like giving. She was so quick to share you felt ashamed of not wanting to share. She was just so absurdly kind hearted, generous, and understanding that you felt bad for her when the other kids mistreated her but then angry at the same time that she wouldn’t stand up for herself. She just took it all, absorbing all that meanness like a sponge and never once responding to the unkind words or the gestures or the cruelty with any of her own.
Part of me admired Charity, even if I didn’t want to admit it. I don’t know how she did it, taking everything they dished out day after day without ever letting it change her. The other part of me wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled. I wanted to scream at her and tell her to wake up already. If she wanted to stop hurting, she was going to have to fight them and make them stop.
Hope and Joy always stood with her, too. It was the darndest thing I ever saw. Those three would just stand there, arms locked tightly around each other, holding on while they took the abuse being heaped on them by the neighborhood bullies. And maybe that was their secret recipe for surviving all that pain without letting it break them. They had each other, and their love for one another became an impenetrable fortress that kept the darkness from entering in and destroying them.
I wanted to defend them, to be brave enough to stand up and speak out for them, but I was too scared of getting hurt myself. I think that’s what really killed my friendship with Hope. I felt so much guilt for not being strong enough to protect her, for not being able to find the courage to join her and her sisters, and so much anger at Charity for being the cause of it all that I couldn’t invite them over anymore. Guilt and anger killed that friendship. Life was just my excuse for letting it go.
I’ve never forgotten those three sisters. If you’d ever met them, you’d understand. Just being around them changes you somehow. Sometimes I wonder what I’d have become if I’d ever had the courage to join them out there and take a stand for them. Then, I remind myself that I don’t have to wonder. I saw what happened to them. I’d be carrying those same bruises, cuts, and welts from the stones the kids threw and the blows that fell on those girls. It’d be me that’d be skipped over for birthday parties and left off guest lists of classmates.
No, it was better that I never did. But I must admit, I do still wonder what became of those girls. Sometimes, I remember what life was like when Hope and Joy and Charity were part of my life, and I miss those days. Most of all, I miss Hope.