For many adult years an image lodged in my mind that I didn’t understand.
I am five years old and walking with my family down a dirt road. My parents are walking ahead, as is my older brother. Mother is carrying my younger brother. They are talking amongst themselves while I fall farther and farther behind. My young legs are unable to keep pace. Finally I collapse in the middle of the road and start to cry, hoping Dad will notice. Hoping he will pick me up and carry me for awhile.
The image is complete in itself. I have no idea what happened before or after. What I do know is that in my actual life my parents never left me crying in the road. Never.
Yet the image persisted for years. What was there about being five years old and wanting to be rescued? Last week, as I was writing to a friend, the image returned. Only then did I realize it no longer applies to my life. In fact, I hadn’t seen or felt the image in a long time.
From my armchair, I ponder and psychologize about such things. What is there about being five? Did my growth get stifled at that age, for some reason unknown to me? If the image is not about my parents, it must be about me. The understanding took years to emerge.
Fathers can be great rescuers, but sometimes they allow children to learn their own lessons. In my imagination I see my father stop and turn around when he hears my sobs. “Are you hurt?” he asks. I only shake my head. Words are not easily understood through tears. Then he says, “We’ll wait for you right here. You can get up and walk when you stop crying.”
And so it is. We often hope someone will rescue us from our situation — but it’s only wishful thinking. We sit back and wait, saying, “If only someone would….than I will feel better.”
The reality is I have to forge my own path. I have to stop crying and whining and saying “Woe is me; life isn’t fair.” I have to stand up. I have to take the next steps.
In my mind, when I finally reach my parents, they congratulate me on my walking. “See, you can do it!” they say. Their close hugs reassure me. Then we start out again. They slow their pace a bit and I do my own walking.
A magical rescuer is not coming. The voice of wishful thinking needs to be silenced.
Our work is to take the next step, however small it might be. Step after step creates walking.
Until next Tuesday…