“We”

This article was originally written by MK Merrigan and has been adapted with permission for MK Advisors.

It has been inspiring to witness the recent groundswell of courageous voices — the magnitude of what seemed to be a small pebble, dropped into what has become a much larger pond, and with much larger implications. #metoo

I recently experienced a strange confluence of the past and the present, sitting at the head of a very big table, with his experience and his authority displayed on his place card, bearing his title. Maybe a scene similar to some of the devastating stories we’ve recently heard… there I was…

I walked into the room of which I was new, into a group of people I had never met in person. I was the late one, requiring an escort to the meeting since I had no special associations which would allow my free-range movement. I was walked behind the U-shaped desk that listed all the names and titles of my new associates. Because I was late, I quietly sat and tried not to disrupt the video proudly promoting the work this group has done and plans to amplify. I was so proud to be invited. Until I turned to see the name and the face at the head of this team.

It’s him… It’s him. Oh my god…. how could this be possible?

It was all I could do not to get up… not to throw up. At the first break, I made a beeline to his place at the head of the table, interrupting his whispered conversation with his associate, the smart doctor.

“Excuse me, hi…I’m MK. I—”

“Hi MK, glad to meet you in person—”

“Did you live in Meridian, Mississippi? Were you stationed in Meridian?” My hands were shaking and by the look on his face which started red, then white, and then red again — he knew why I was asking.

“Yes… wow… Michelle?”

“Yes. Remember… remember when I lived with you and your wife when you moved to California? That was twenty years ago last month…”

Needless to say, the start to a story that could have been one of a dozen stories of other experiences and the all too familiarity with fear, lies, deceit…one of taking, one of harm. #NotThisOne

The reason I was shaking? This man changed my life, knowing him throughout some of the hardest years. I nannied for his kids. When my parents went out of town, I stayed at his replica of my house, on-post in Meridian. I even moved across the country to live with him and his wife and nannied for the kids while he was deployed.

He was calm. Soft-spoken. Trustworthy. With backbone — he once stood up for me when he saw things that shouldn’t have been. He cared. He could have been a #metoo story, but #NotThisOne

People have begun asking what men can do to protect these girls, to stand out among the legion who hide their sins in the shadows of power and intimidation. I surmise it is much of the same fuel that drives the pursuits of the most meaningful things in life. Character. Backbone. Standards. Guard rails.

Twenty years earlier, he could have chosen to forego those character decisions and operate in the gray. I am thankful. #NotThisOne