I am beginning to think I learned one of my biggest lessons about trust in high school.* I was a dumpy, clumsy girl. At least that’s how I felt. I was heavier than most girls and was always, always aware of that. I walked through life half wincing, so that when everyone started laughing at me, I was prepared.
Our school was hosting a gathering of kids – including foreign exchange students – from other schools in the area. We played team games and getting-to-know-you games. Then came the dreaded trust exercises.
I watched as the others took their turns falling backwards into each other’s arms. Some fell through the few inches of empty air easily, but others chickened out mid-fall and caught themselves. Either way there was a great deal of laughing. After a few rounds, one of the exchange students came up to me and said “Come on, I’ll catch you.”
Let me digress just a moment and say this kid was beautiful. Funny. Charming. He was the exchange student from Norway and was blonde and strong and bright eyed and everything you’d expect from the people that brought you the Norse gods. And I may have had a little crush on him.
I demurred but he insisted and next thing I knew we were in the center of a circle of teenagers. He told me to close my eyes, and I did. He told me to cross my arms over my chest, and I did. He told me to wait, and I did. Then to told me to fall. I stood stock still. What if I was too heavy for him to catch? What if he stepped aside for a joke? What if we both ended up in a heap on the floor? I decided that I would only fall to the point of no return and then catch myself. Let them say I had chickened out. It was better than being made a fool.
So I fell.
I quickly went from elation – I’m doing it! I’m really doing it! I’m so brave! He’ll catch me any second now – to terror – ohshitohshitohshit –as I whipped past the point of no return. I barely had time to begin to flail about and struggle to catch myself before –whoomp! – I handed in his arms, just inches above the floor. He had crouched down and over to the side and caught me like a baby. He looked down at me, his blue eyes twinkling** and said “See, I told you I’d catch you.”
People told me how brave I was, asked me how I dared fall that far. Mr. Teen Norse God started showing the other boys his tricks to catching girls and everyone went back to normal teen life.
But I remember thinking. It worked out. He caught me. Even though it felt like he wouldn’t, even when he didn’t do it when I thought he would, he caught me.
As I have mentioned before, trust doesn’t come easy to sixes. We don’t trust other people, we don’t trust ourselves, we don’t trust that it will work out. I used to think I could trust God or circumstances or myself if I just knew things were going to work out. But that’s not trust, that’s just patience.
Since it feels like the world can’t be trusted, we sixes plan. And make back up plans. We run scenarios in our heads. We comb over every situation for the worst outcome and plan for that. And too often, when we give ourselves to something big and scary and important – love, a new job, a new endeavor, even just a social gathering – we create an escape plan, just in case. We start with the end in mind and one foot already back out the door.
But what if it does all work out?
Sometimes life happens too fast for us to back out and we whiz past the point of no return. There have been a bunch of times lately when I was steeled for the worst to happen and when it did, it wasn’t so bad. Sometimes the deal breaker happens and the deal isn’t broken.
The memory of that trust fall is something that has been rambling around in in my head for decades now. Something doesn’t stay with you like that unless there is a reason. And maybe just this week I figured out that reason.