A Shared Moment of Trust

I read and was deeply moved by an essay recently entitled ‘A Shared Moment of Trust’, written by Warren Christopher, U.S. Secretary of State from 1993 to 1997,  President Carter’s deputy secretary of state.  It was published in a book I am reading titled This I Believe; The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.  I acquired the book by winning it… I won it at my oldest son’s freshman orientation at Southern Connecticut State University about 4 years ago.  It was his summer assignment to read this book for his Inquiry class in the fall.  It was also part of the assignment for him to write his own ‘This I Believe’ essay that summer.  When I first read it, I was reading it to get in the mind of my child, to read what he was reading and try to interpret it through his eyes.  I didn’t know I would enjoy it so much!  It is a remarkable book, a collection of both ordinary and extraordinary people’s points of view, their own perception of the world.  I am so intrigued these days by perception.  As I grow older, and gain more wisdom in this life, I can see clearly that the words once told to me hold very true — “There is no reality, only perception.”  Through my life this has held true time and time again.  I believe that having attempted to love and nurture our foster daughter and then having it end the way it did… it is honestly the only statement that I can go to and have any understanding at all for how it all seemed to go wrong.  The statements shared in this book are written by some famous people and some unknown before the publication.  This book reveals so much of the human spirit. It is invigorating and powerful with great diversity and honesty.

I keep this book nearby and I find myself returning to it often over a cup of coffee, opening it up and reading one or two entries to start my day.  I am often re-reading ones I’ve read before but often have different feelings arise each time.  The one that I mentioned that I read today is ‘A Shared Moment of Trust’.  It starts out like this:

“One night recently, I was driving down a two-lane highway at about sixty miles per hour.  A car approached from the opposite direction, at about the same speed.  As we passed each other, I caught the other driver’s eye for only a second.

I wondered whether he may be thinking, as I was, how dependent we were on each other at that moment.  I was relying on him not to fall asleep, not to be distracted by a cell phone conversation, not to cross over into my lane and bring my life suddenly to an end. And though we had never spoken a word to one another, he relied on me in just the same way.

Multiplied a million times over, I believe that is the way the world works. At some level, we all depend upon one another.  Sometimes that dependence requires us simply to refrain from doing something, like crossing over the double yellow line. And sometimes it requires us to act cooperatively, with allies or even with strangers.”

His essay goes on and tells a story of his professional career as U.S. Secretary of State.  It was so well done, very thought provoking and real.  This particular essay spoke to me this morning for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost is because we have a new driver in the family.  Our youngest son passed his license test last week.  We are in the throes of teaching him what this responsibility means, the reasons why the State has six months of a junior operators license, that this is an earned privilege and that it is to be respected.  Also because we spend a lot of time on the highway these days, traveling back and forth to visit our son and daughter at college.  The way Mr. Christopher so eloquently compares the simple act of driving, something we all do everyday, with such emphasis on personal responsibility, I just love it!

I have observed such carelessness on the highways these days.  From texting to putting make-up on while driving at speeds of 70+mph.  I just cannot comprehend people not having any regard for the speed they are going and the jeopardy they are putting others in for their own lack of responsibility.  My children and I were in an accident on the highway a few years back, the woman behind the wheel of her small car took her eyes off the road to “just” change the radio station, but when she looked up traffic ahead had slowed, she veered left into the front end of our minivan and spun us around, we hit a guardrail and crossed the highway in front of three lanes of oncoming traffic.  I was told by police afterwards that by me holding tight to the wheel, I kept our van from flipping over.  I have worked hard since then to rebuild trust while being on the highway. The decisions folks are making everyday to not pay full attention to their own responsibility of driving can have devastating consequences to innocent people trusting them on the road.

Mr. Christopher’s essay ends like this:

“In my own life, I’ve put great stock in personal responsibility.  But, as the years have passed, I’ve also come to believe that there are moments when one must rely upon the good faith and judgement of others.  So, as each of us faces — at one time or another — the prospect of driving alone down a dark road, what we must learn with experience is that the approaching light may not be a threat, but a shared moment of trust.”

Thank you Mr. Christopher, your essay helps me to restore my faith… faith I may have lost since our accident.  I cannot live in fear.  Anxiety is real, but we can choose to listen to those worries or we can work hard to tell them to go away.  I must continue to live and I must continue to trust.

“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”  ~ Walter Anderson

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