The site prompt for today is: “Write about a time when you didn’t take action but wish you had. What would you have done differently?” This is easy, I remember the exact moment and can draw a straight line from my sickening passivity to this table, today.

In college, some friends and I were at a dance club. Maybe that’s a strange thing to type or to read. It seems like a lifetime ago, which, I suppose, it was. So, we’re at this dance club in Harrisburg, PA, the night is winding down, and I’m standing outside the bathroom waiting for these friends, staring through the lobby windows (this club was attached to a chain hotel.) A drunk woman and her equally drunk boy were just outside on the sidewalk. He was standing over her, screaming. She was crying. Just a really awful scene. Sadly, this sort of scene wasn’t/isn’t as rare as it should be.

I knew there was only one thing for me to do, yet I stood glued to the ugly lobby carpet, dearly wishing I was not there. Then he hit her with the bottle and dumped the rest over her head as she slumped to the curb with her head in her hands. My head and heart exploded into a fiery mess, I’m feverish even now as I write. Yet I stood stock still.

Then my friends came out, I told them what I had seen, and we ran out as the boy ran away. We checked on her, offered to call an ambulance (which she declined – as a matter of fact, she would later find a ride at the end of the night WITH HIM!!!!) and talked like we were big time Protectors of the Realm. We threatened him to each other, and detailed all of the ways we’d have thrashed him, if only we were there. But I was, there was no hypothetical “if only” for me to hide behind.

I was weak and afraid. That night, she was much less important than small, selfish me. Of course she went home with him, how could she possibly know her value, as long as there were guys like watching her be treated like this? She obviously thought she deserved this trash, and apparently, so did I. What a terrible thing to write. These prompts are supposed to be light and superficial, aren’t they? I guess I am misunderstanding the assignment.

I wallowed in shame for years, horrified by my disgusting behavior, until I began the long process of re-programming me from a soft, pathetic pleaser into something else. I can’t say it even mattered what the something else was, at the time, just that who I was simply wouldn’t do anymore. It wasn’t good enough for her, for my sister, mom, friends, for my future wife and sons. I didn’t believe in God then, but it certainly wouldn’t be good enough for Him. And it wasn’t good enough for me.

I badly want to go back to show & tell that girl that she was beautiful and worth everything, that she deserved much much more than table scraps, that she was loved. I’d like to show him that, too. Because to let him think that he was worth nothing more that to be that guy, overwhelmed by his own insecurity and inadequacy, is equally unacceptable.

So now, that’s what I do. Every moment of my life is given to sharing that message. (And I lift a lot of weights, not so I could break him in half, but so that that kid would think I might. And that any other time he – or anyone else – thinks about mistreating a woman, he would think there might be someone like me who also might.) I no longer carry the crushing shame, it’s now passion and purpose.

It’s a cliché that we wouldn’t change anything because then, we wouldn’t be the people we are now. And that’s totally true. But I still wish I would’ve gone outside 2 minutes earlier.