On Being A Marked Person Genesis 4:1–16 -- By: Richard L. Hester

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 004:1 (Fall 1986)
Article: On Being A Marked Person Genesis 4:1–16
Author: Richard L. Hester

On Being A Marked Person
Genesis 4:1–16

Richard L. Hester

Professor of Pastoral Care and Psychology of Religion,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

I recently remembered two long-forgotten events from my childhood. Both took place before I was four years old. The memories are like photographs from a family album. It was as if I found the album untouched for forty-three years, and opened the pages to these two pictures. In the first picture I am standing in the next-door-neighbor’s garden. My mother is beside me and talking with Mrs. Turner. Mrs. Turner’s retarded son, Doody, stands beside her. It is a bright, clear, hot morning about ten o’clock. As we stand between the rows of beans and tomatoes Doody says, “Richard’s silly. Richard’s silly.” These are the only words I recall his ever saying. He says them over and over again as a kind of background chant to the adult conversation.

In the other memory, the second mental photograph, I am on the back porch of our house. Our cocker spaniel, Biff, has grabbed my cap and is running around the yard with it. I am screaming, “Mommie, Biffs got my beanie!”

I do not like either of these memories. They bother me. In the first one a retarded person ridicules me with the monotonous refrain, “Richard’s silly.” It’s as if he sees through me to something in myself I don’t want anybody to see. He tags me with the adjective “silly” which is about the last thing in the world I want to be. I would rather be “mean” or even “crazy” than silly. “Silly” undermines my image of myself as a solid person of worth and importance. I want to get out of that garden and away from the eerie sense that Doody Turner knows something about me I don’t want anyone to know—not even myself.

In the second memory I am victimized by a cocker spaniel. Dogs are not supposed to be in charge of humans. We are supposed to be in charge of the dogs. This dog doesn’t know his place. And he is stealing my clothes, something quite important to my personal security.

I close the album. I’m not leaving it out on the coffee table in the living room for me and others to see. Although I won’t throw it away, I am going to conceal it. I’ll put it in the closet in the bedroom. But I can’t leave it there. Early some morning as I sleepily probe around for something to wear I will know that those two pictures are in it. And I will go through the day with the images in my mind. Lurking at one fringe of my mind will be the picture of a retarded person who sees that I have an inflated sense of my own importance. At another fringe will be the picture of me being terrorized by a dog—me losing control, losing my clothes, losing my

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