Precarious Kites
(Grace Notes)
About Fear > Lost

Grace-Note #30 – ran on 7/17/05


Every time I read the story about Brennen Hawkins, the scout found alive after four days wandering the woods, I find I’m holding my breath. The hold begins when I read what his father, Toby Hawkins, said later: “….I always thought he was the least prepared of my five children, and now I think he was maybe the best prepared.”

Brennan stayed on the trail as he had been taught; during four long days and nights, he left it only to hide when he heard the approaching footsteps of rescuers – he hid from them because he was afraid they’d steal him.

That scares me to death.

And it scares me to death that anyone would think such an attitude would be evidence of preparation for living any kind of life.

A decent life demands that you trust some people, most people even.

This is decidedly hard. Harder still if you have any access to news. Sensational stories get people’s attention. Thus, we have a lot of sensational stories. The stories that say most of us are good, most of us are safe, and most of us are helpful just don’t grab our attention like “Man pretending to be Santa Claus packs a gun!”

There are bad people. People who steep in deep pools of septic, skewered, and sickening thoughts – they swim, soak, and live there. And sometimes they gather themselves from the slime, move toward the shore dripping and faceless and act on these thoughts. Then someone gets hurt in the ugliest of ways. And the rest of us run for cover. We check what the fallen did wrong and swear by our own we won’t ever do it.

They got on a plane. We won’t.
They went swimming in an ocean. We won’t.
They got out of the car. We won’t.
They talked to a stranger. We won’t.

Pump gas at night? Nope. Help someone across a street? Nope. Give directions? Nope. Santa? No way.

But, holing up, hunkering down, and hiding your way through life is not living. And ducking behind a tree is not preparation for anything but hide and seek – a child’s game.

If you won’t risk that people are good you could end up dead in the woods. Game over. Brennen is lucky someone caught him unawares and out of hiding. Had they not, he may not have lived.

Yes, there is a scary undertow in our world. It hits our ankles with a sharp get-your-guard up tug. Ask any one of my friends if I struggle with cougar fear (“yes”), plane fear (“yes”), drown at Water-world fear (“yes”). But stranger fear? With that one I try hard to make sure the answer is “not so much.”

Statistically speaking, we are far, far, more likely to be hurt by someone we know than by a stranger. So, I hone my intuition, pay attention to my gut-feelings, and generally try to assume most people are good. I fight, with pointed effort, my own tendencies to hunker-up by hoisting myself and my babies into a tree, certain that bears – or slimy wake-from-the dead-sea monsters – are lurking all about.

Tonight I will say this to my sons: If you are lost in the woods, stay put, and call out loudly should you hear any signs of people.

The world can seem a scary place, but most people in it are good. Most people in it will help you. If you are alone and afraid and I am not there, and Daddy is not there, and no one you know is around, you must ask a person for help.

God is with you and prayers are good. But God uses people to help him save his children. Most people will help save you. It’s worth the risk. Look around, make your best choice, and call to someone.

And, to all of us older people, I add: Some days the woods are metaphor for the hardest and heaviest of adult problems, the ones that take us from each other, the ones that cut us most deeply and isolate us most powerfully. To everyone lost among such trees, please, fight the hide-out instinct. Scream for help. Call and call and call. Risk it. Someone will find you. Someone will help.