FORGIVING IS EASY BUT FORGETTING IS NEARLY-IMPOSSIBLE.
The year was 1953, and The Pollyanna Club at Pine Bluff High School-- an historic social club for teenage girls-- was voting on new members. I learned later that-- minutes before the final vote-- a Senior named Patsy Pettus --spoke out against me-- saying: “Sally Miller is a stuck-up bitch who thinks she’s pretty. She needs to be put in her place."
Following those words, she blackballed me. It only took one blackball and that one vote was historic. No Pollyanna Club member had EVER blackballed a prospective member. Later that evening, I received endless phone calls from club members and many parents, apologizing for the blackball vote. I appreciated the phone calls and the show of support but-- all the apologies in the world didn’t cancel-out the blackball.
The next year, I received a handwritten invitation by mail, inviting me to be a member of the Pollyanna Club. Young and needing to belong, I accepted the invitation but—after what had happened the previous year—the invitation held no real meaning. Hurt feelings heal, but never forget.
Follow up: Life is unpredictable. Misfortune, loss, and dramatic life changes can happen to any of us. Those who appear “on-top” today can be “down-under” tomorrow. In the early nineties, soon after completing my journey of The Great Wall, I returned to Pine Bluff. Out for an early-morning jog I noticed an older person-- shabbily-dressed-- shuffling along the sidewalk about half-a-block in front of me. Having experienced a few homeless people with unpredictable behaviors, I preferred to keep my distance. Increasing my pace, I was almost beside the person when a newspaper sailed over my head and landed on a nearby porch.
Surprised, I realized the stranger was delivering newspapers! How ashamed I felt for being suspicious of the person’s appearance; for thinking drugs and alcohol might be the reason for the person’s walking difficulties. Apparently the older person was struggling—both physically and financially but--to the person’s credit-- he or she had employment--a paper route.
Feeling guilty, I stopped to offer the stranger a word of encouragement. Our eyes met and I realized the person looking back at me was Patsy Pettus, my self-proclaimed enemy from high school. She was the person who had spoken-out against me to Pollyanna members before blackballing me. Interesting to remember, my brother had introduced Patsy to his best friend, Joe, who later became her husband. Somewhere along the way....they had children...and then divorced. I never knew Patsy personally but, apparently, something about me activated intense hate, jealousy, and strong dislike.
Fighting to balance a bag filled with rolled newspapers while leaning heavily on an old wooden stick, Patsy appeared confused. She returned my look with blank, expressionless eyes; there was no indication, after so many years, she recognized me.
I’ll never know what caused Patsy to reach such a low- point in her life. Standing face-to-face with such a tragic figure from my past, I remember feeling sad.. very sad.