Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GLUTTONY (overindulgence and overconsumption) (01/15/15)
TITLE: If Only
By Leola Ogle
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I often heard small children ask, “Mommy, why is that lady so fat?” It’s a natural curiosity, but it hurt Sherry anyway.
It’s easy to judge someone who weighs over three hundred fifty pounds. But I knew the real Sherry – who she was on the inside – not the obese novelty strangers gawked at.
She had a heart full of love, compassion, kindness and generosity. Her smile lit up her pretty face. Her laughter made you laugh with her – and she laughed often. She also cried easily. She wanted so much from life, normal things – a husband, children, and her own home.
She was young and single when she started attending our church where I held several leadership positions. That’s how we became friends. She was always offering to help and I was a typical leader desperate for volunteers.
When we got closer, she shared her story. She was the chubby kid in school who was ridiculed. She always had good friends, though. In high school, she wanted what every teenager wants – to date, have a boyfriend, and to be found attractive.
One of the handsome, popular boys asked her out. She was thrilled. He dated her a few times. He said he loved her, so she gave him what he wanted. Then she found out it was a joke, a bet he’d made with his friends – how long before Sherry gives in?
Crushed, she ran sobbing to her girlfriend’s house to talk. No one was home except her girlfriend’s stepfather. He hugged her and let her cry on his shoulder. Then he raped her. “If you tell anyone, no one will believe you. No one wants a fatty like you anyway.”
No one wants a fatty like you – the exact words the high school boy had told her. She never reported either incident. “So I just ate and ate, getting fatter and fatter. I didn’t want to be appealing to anyone. I felt safe behind my weight.”
She always had a supply of chocolates, cashews, chips and snacks in her purse, car, bedroom, and kitchen. We all knew that, even though she pretended she didn’t eat that much. She started so many new diets. She even had stomach-stapling surgery. Within months she had stretched her stomach out again, eating as much as she always had.
“I just want to get married and have babies,” she would sob. “Please pray I can lose weight and find someone.”
The enablers continued to enable. Most were guilty of supplying her with calorie-laden food. Church people love to make and serve food, and Sherry loved good food. While most of us knew when to stop eating, Sherry didn’t.
She continued to get bigger.
She was in her late thirties when she helped form a successful Singles’ Group at church. She bought new clothes, and got a stylish hairdo. “I want to look pretty,” she told me.
She still made no attempt to control her eating. People prayed with her, encouraged her with scripture. Was Jesus not enough?
Over the course of several years, she fantasized that several different men had “feelings” for her. I became her listening ear, the one she shared her desires about various “suitors.” “He really likes me, I can tell,” she would gush as she blushed.
If only one of them had cared for her. If only.
Sherry loved kids, and the single dads took advantage of her as a free babysitter. She took it as a sign they had a romantic interest in her. It broke my heart to watch her hopes get dashed again and again. Why couldn’t someone see beyond the exterior to the beautiful, warm, and loving person she was?
By the time she reached five hundred pounds, she was confined to a hospital bed set up in her home, her weight making it impossible to walk. I visited frequently and she was always cheerful, always laughing as we shared memories of our times together.
There was no fairy tale ending for Sherry. She’s been gone for several years now. Her love of food eventually led to complications that took her life. She was fifty-one. It took a crane to remove her from her house.
Someone asked why Sherry didn’t try harder. Can anyone judge another’s struggle? All I know is she was a good friend and I miss her.
** Based on a true story, but I changed the name.
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