Parents, caregivers, teachers and coaches contribute to the emotional stability of children.
Conversely, single acts of selfishness and evil by adults can rip into a child’s emotional fabric causing confusion and pain.

Small town, Iowa

August, 1955

I’m lucky. Coach Patterson has picked Mike Schmidt and me for extra coaching before we enter sixth grade and play for St. John’s against the bigger, public grade schools. We do push-ups and jumping jacks and run out to catch button hooks and fly patterns. Coach throws hard spirals that drill into my chest and stomach and I wear each red welt with pride.

Coach Patterson is taking Mike and me out to look for arrowheads. It’s Saturday and Mike doesn’t show so Coach and I head out on a dusty road in his famous Ford Fairlane. We park and go up one hill, then another, eyes peeled for prized arrowheads. Coach picks up a little gray rock, pats me on the head and says it may be from the Chippewa tribe. I bask in the discovery of the moment.

We sit on the grass and coach tells me to lie back and look up at these dinky gray clouds and squint my eyes until they change shapes. I’m not much for looking at clouds when I could be catching footballs.

Suddenly, Coach Patterson’s hand is in my hair, his leg swings over my knees and his voice gets creepy sweet.

Minutes or hours pass. I stop kicking, stop pulling at the tufts of grass. I stop shrieking. I stop the tears. I just stop completely for a long time.

Coach Patterson starts down the hill looking for arrowheads he may have missed on the way up. I trail behind him, rubbing fistfuls of weeds and grass against the fresh stain on my jeans.

The stain doesn’t go away.

In my life, I was blessed with caring individuals, both personal and professional, who guided me to a place of self-love and responsibility. Many victims of abuse display the courage to follow life paths of personal accountability and joy while others perpetuate lurid acts in a generational cycle.

We all have the opportunity to help determine which path an individual follows by performing precious acts of love, discipline and compassion each day.