Recently something happened that has made me think of the words that I hold inside; the things that I think but don’t say. It was an act of courage by another woman- a woman I didn’t know. She shouted out and saved me from danger. And, since it happened, I’ve been asking myself if I would have had the courage to do the same? Or would the “pleaser” in me have stopped me?
And I’m not alone. We come from a generation of women who were taught to be pleasing to everyone. I remember my Mom telling me that no one was going to love a loud woman who says what she thinks. “No one really wants to hear what you think….don’t make yourself too loud, too boisterous, don’t stand out. Men won’t like you….”
And now there are times when I can’t form the words, much less have the courage to say them. You know, those times when saying what you think might not make you popular. People might think you’re not being “ladylike” or “attractive” if you say what’s on your mind.
Well, here’s the story. I was in my regular restaurant at lunch, sitting with a coworker. My jacket was over my chair and my purse by me on the floor. I was too wrapped up in my conversation to notice the man who sat near me. I didn’t notice his face or the sound of his chair as he inched his way closer to where I sat. I was oblivious to the drama that was unfolding as he tried to lean in a little closer and steal my wallet out of my purse.
“Don’t you try to take her purse!” I heard someone shout. And then to me- “Miss, you better watch your purse, he’s going to take it!” She pointed, she yelled- and she got everyone’s attention, including mine. This wonderful statuesque woman stood up and yelled at this man trying to steal my wallet. She shouted so everyone could hear. She shouted and scared him off. He ran and others ran after him- making sure that he didn’t get away.
I stood there amazed. This woman who didn’t know me had taken it upon herself to look out for me. She was not afraid at all of causing a ruckus. She was not afraid of embarrassing anyone. She was righteous and she shouted- and she shouted to help someone she didn’t know.
And when I realized what had happened she said “I saw him sneaking over and I was not going to let something bad happen to you. We women have to watch out for each other- and not be afraid to speak up when something is wrong.”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stopped from saying the right thing, stopped from yelling it out from the rooftops if it needed to be. I am embarrassed to say that the way I was raised gets in the way of doing what this wonderful woman did for me. And, it’s going to stop. Right now.
And, I’m going to forget what Mom said. I’m going to remember this woman and keep asking myself “Where is my voice?” until I find it.
So, use your voice! Shout something out to me! Is there something that needs to be said? I hope we all can say it.
Read more from Virginia Sullivan on First Class Woman