We need safe harbors of hope.
Places where we can leave on daily adventures, to take on the world, conquer new lands, defeat the enemies of wrong, and be numbered with true and just. Returning to our safe harbor of hope, we can tell of our triumphs (with only a little exaggeration) while licking our wounds (with great exaggeration.)
Like many people, our house was our safe harbor, One day my mom asked where I was going. With unlimited excitement, I explained my great plan to build a skateboard from a 2-by-4 piece of lumber and an old pair of skates. Not wanting to stifle my creativity, she said it was fine but to “be careful and don’t hurt yourself.”
With that advice tucked away somewhere in the back of my brain, I descended into the mysterious cave known as “the basement.” I entered my dad’s spotless workroom, which was sufficiently sanitary to saw wood or perform open-heart surgery. Assembling the resources to build my engineering masterpiece, I was confident that it would make me the envy of Carney, MD.
After several hours and numerous mistakes, I ascended from the basement full of self-satisfaction and confidence. I bore all the marks of great men and women who achieve great things; sweat on my forehead, grease, and Chinese Red paint on my hands, pants, shirt, face, and shoes.
Taking my newly minted skateboard, I ran up the street to where the sidewalk started. I confidently dropped the skateboard onto the concrete while giving a quick gaze and nod to all my adoring fans (my neighbor’s dog burped and scratched himself in recognition.) I jumped on the skateboard and began my ride into history.
WARNING: What you are about to read is dangerous. It should not be attempted without adequate education, expert advice, training, practice, or protective gear (helmet, goggles, shoulder pads, arm pads, elbow protectors, wrist guards, gloves, ankle supports, knee pads, and athletic supporter.) This is not for the faint of heart, uninformed, or novice. This historical account was originally performed by someone who had absolutely no earthly idea what he was doing nor the potential consequences or harm to his body or psyche.
As I began to pick up speed, the adrenalin rush moved my excitement to worlds unknown. I heard the clickety click of the wheels as they rolled across the expansion joints in the sidewalk (take note to remember the expansion joints). I stretched out my arms as if to fly. I looked like Jack Dawson on the bow of the Titanic(1) yelling, “I’m the king of the world!” Little did I know that I was about to perform my own personal reenactment of the Titanic.
Remember those expansion joints in the sidewalk? The front wheels ran into one that created a small but important rise in the sidewalk. It was only a half-inch, but that made all the difference in the world. I was rolling forward at a rapid pace when the wheels (and attached skateboard) came to an abrupt halt, creating a test for the laws of physics. The laws passed with flying colors, I lost and just started flying.
The skateboard stopped dead while I did not. I performed an impromptu impersonation of Superman soaring over Gotham City. This was not a silent pantomime of the Man of Steel, this came with a bloodcurdling, earth-shattering, scream. Time does not permit me to adequately describe the emotions (fright and horror) followed by pain (scraped knees and assorted bruises and contusions) ending in tears, embarrassment, and permanent emotional scaring which I bear to this day.
My mom’s words of prophecy always seemed to come true, “Don’t do that Chet, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Yet, when I came screaming into the house, she did not remind me about the prophecy, laws of physics, or gravity. She did not quote from Newton’s Three Laws of Motion; how an object in motion stays in motion, how there is a reaction for every action, or the relationship between an object's mass, its acceleration, and applied force.
No, her response was more hopeful, practical, and relational. She carefully rolled up my pant legs, cleaned my self-inflicted wounds while refilling my hope tank, trying to comfort me. Applying a disinfectant and non-stick Band-Aids, she hugged me. When the tears subsided, she assured me that while it still hurt, everything was going to be OK. Wiping my eyes, I looked up into hers, there was an assurance that she knew what she was talking about. My hope restored, and my manhood repaired, I screwed up my courage and went back outside.
With all the pain, sorrow, and loss we’ve experienced, we need a safe harbor for hope. A place to leave from, a place to return to.
Where is your safe harbor of hope?