The Corner Of The Basement Where The Light Doesn’t Reach
I walk down the dark stairs and turn around the bottom of the staircase. It is nearly pitch black in the unfinished basement with raw two-by-fours being held up as railings.
I see her, sitting all balled up on the floor against the wall, in the corner. She’s got her head down. She has blonde hair. She’s maybe nine.
Slowly, I slide down next to her. I don’t say anything for a few minutes, we just sit in silence.
Eventually, I break it.
“Why are you down here?” I ask.
“I’m hiding,” she says, barely looking up at me.
“Because I don’t want anyone to see me.”
“Why don’t you want anyone to see you?” I ask.
She responds, “Because they might not understand.”
“Ahhh…” I trail off. I know this story well.
We sit for a few more minutes in silence.
“If I stay with you, will you come with me upstairs out of this dark basement, and go outside? If you know that I’ll be with you and you’re not alone?”
“No,” she says. “It’s too scary.”
I contemplate what to say to this little girl who is so afraid, and yet what can I possibly offer, when I’ve been there so many times myself in this unpredictable world? Do I tell her she’s got this? That hardly seems helpful in the middle of that kind of fear. Do I tell her not to worry about what other people think? That’s not useful either, everyone cares about at least what one person thinks. I don’t say anything just yet.
And then, I do.
“You know that there are other kids, so many of them, that are sitting in their basements, just like you are?”
She shoots me a hard look, not quite sure if I’m telling the truth.
“It’s true,” I say, nodding slightly. “All over the world. For the exact same reason you are.”
I can tell that she’s not sure about this. I go on.
“What if I told you, that if you were to stop hiding, and to get up and go outside, and to let yourself be seen, really be seen for everything that you are, that by doing that you would help all those other kids? That then, they might feel a little bit safer too, because you went first? And that by doing that, they would feel like it was ok for them to get up off the basement floor, and walk outside into the world, and fully be themselves too? Would you do it then?”
She thinks about this for a minute.
“You mean that if I can do that, I might be able to help other people?”
“Yes,” I say. “But the thing is, you might never know if you’ve helped them or not. You just have to trust that somewhere, someone might feel better because of something you did, even if you never find out about it.”
She lets out a big exhale.
“I can’t promise it will always be easy,” I say, not wanting to sugar coat it. “But no matter what, I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone.”
Finally, she looks up at me, square in the face with big blue eyes.
“Okay,” she says. “If I can help even just one person, then I’ll do it.”
I stand up.
I put out my hand, she takes it and stands.
And I walk, hand-in-hand, with the nine-year-old version of me, up the stairs, and out into the light.