We All Need Someone to Believe In

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Shilo, when I was young
I used to call your name
When no one else would come
Shilo, you always came
And we’d play

Neil Diamond

Toward the end of a recent breakfast meeting, I glanced at my phone and noticed numerous missed calls and texts from Sally. Uh oh. It seems that her morning had been interrupted by a flat tire and all of the unfortunate hassle such an event entails. Though she wasn’t stranded on the side of a road somewhere, she was sitting in the parking lot of a gas station at a busy intersection deep within Indianapolis. When I arrived, I was greeted in the lot by my son-in-law, Ryan, who was our first responder and had waited with Sally until I got there.

Whenever hazards enter our life, particularly involving those we love, our mind wanders first to safety and then to logistics. Looking at Ryan, I was struck by his familiarity and the comfort that brought. I recognized him. I knew him. I realized that Sally was safe and supported – she was not alone. Despite offers from various characters at the gas station to change the tire (for a small fee), we decided the fastest solution was to change it ourselves. Ryan hung in there with me and we got it done with only a few nicks, bruises, and smudges.

Most days, we feel little of the vulnerability that actually surrounds our existence. We go about our lives blithely until we are shocked into the reality of our situation by the little, or big, reminder that stuff happens. As I considered our flat tire situation, the comfort of seeing Ryan standing there in that parking lot returned to me.

Suddenly, my mind wandered to a moment when I was eight years old. Walking home from a new school in a new city, amid all of the unknowns, I was followed by a group of older boys who thought it would be fun to harass the new kid. They were taunting me and calling me names – I don’t remember the details, just the feeling: alone and vulnerable. I did the only thing I could think of: I called for my dog, Blacky.

Within moments, my loyal mutt came running down the street. I knew he would be happy to see me. I knew he would defend me. I knew he’d show up. He was truly my best friend and, when he appeared, I knew comfort.

The world has changed little since my walk home. The bullies and threats still exist and, no matter what we tell ourselves, getting older, stronger, or smarter doesn’t guarantee safety or comfort. There is still something exquisitely reassuring about relying on other human beings and knowing they will show up. We all feel a deep, abiding, calm in knowing we’ve got a lifeline when the world threatens to take us to our knees.

On a recent walk past that same Ryan’s house, I heard my grandchildren playing in the backyard and decided to pay them a visit. Walking through the gate, little Fulton, aged 18 months, ran full-tilt across the yard and literally threw himself at me, never once doubting that I would catch him. I realized that I was known and that meant something: comfort, safety, joy, predictability. Solid ground.

Where is the solid ground? What firm foundation supports us as we seek to walk forth or fly into our days? We never stray far from that small self who needs to know. The little boy or girl who recognizes the dragons but stills go forth knowing who they can count on; knowing that they’re not alone.

There is a profound beauty in depending on one another. In a world in which we know we can’t do it alone, we live with hope knowing we can rely on others to show up. The weak links in our own person, the broken places that falter or fail, the moments when we stumble, all might be navigated with a little help. The times we find ourselves brought to our knees by the strident realities of a big and often faceless world. In these places, we need someone to believe in. We need to know.

Consider today, who might believe in you. In that big faceless world, which faces count on you to be there? Who knows beyond any doubt that you will show up? This is a sacred responsibility, an unspoken covenant. There are no contracts or promissory notes. Counting on another human being is believing. It is a pure form of hope. Hope in goodness. Hope in possibility. Hope that we are not alone.

Don’t worry about being heroic or having the right answers or solving the big problems. Start by showing up in the little things. Be present for those who need you in the tiny moments. Accompany them in their small steps. Then, when the big call comes, you will both know, and find comfort in hoping that all might be right again.

  • Jarilyn Berry

    Love this. The story of you calling on Blacky put a happy tear in my eye.

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