Earlier this afternoon I walked outside to my back patio, taking a few minutes of “me-time” to gather my thoughts before my next appointment. Not far down the street is a little gas station, and my sons and I sometimes enjoy making up stories about the people who stop in there. Today though, my eyes were immediately drawn to a couple who seemed to be in crisis directly across from me. Their old “beater” car sat parked next to one of the gas pumps, and it seemed they had thought to take their argument to a bit of privacy – by using my driveway.
The Different Faces of Fear
There is so much fear right now in America. Unemployment is a serious problem, and even those who have jobs often struggle just to make ends meet. I’ve talked with parents who are having to choose whether to eat or pay their electric bill, and have had to learn to say “No” when their teens ask for the latest video games or those super cool new tennis shoes. That fear can color everything about a family, and creates stress between family members that can feel overwhelming.
Watching the couple across my driveway, I couldn’t help but hear every word they said to each other. She leaned against a tree while he paced back and forth in front of her spouting words I hoped my grandson wasn’t listening to from inside the house. Best I could make out, here was a couple who were deeply afraid.
‘ He was afraid because he couldn’t find work, and blamed her for asking him to try harder to find a job.
‘ She was afraid of his anger, of her own inability to find work, and that they barely had enough money to put gas in the car and get groceries for dinner.
As he got louder and more agitated, she shrank closer to the tree trunk, maybe finding some strength in that old tree, maybe just planning to duck behind it if his anger turned into a physical attack. I was wondering if I should intervene, hoping I wouldn’t have to.
Then I saw something that momentarily stopped any thoughts of getting into the middle of this public/private family moment.
A young teen boy came out of the gas station and crawled into the couple’s car. Immediately everything changed. His voice became more gentle as he reminded his wife that they needed to “hold it together for Tommy”. She smiled up at him with tears in her eyes and assured him that they would be okay. And hand-in-hand they walked back to the car and drove away.
When Fear Takes a Back Seat
I’m quite sure that “Tommy” was well aware of the stress his parents were facing. I’d guess his age to be thirteen or fourteen, and I’m sure he had been witness to his mom’s and dad’s “discussions” even if they tried to hide it. But the beauty of this snapshot of fear was that this couple – so overwhelmed by their inability to adequately provide for their little family – was able to put aside their fear and create a family of hope and safety for their son. It was a rare moment of precious love, and I held the vision gently as I watched the car drive away.
What is the face of fear in your family? Are you struggling just to survive? Do you have enough “stuff” but still become plagued with fear? Are you able to put your fear in the back seat and create that priceless place of hope and safety within your home? What would it take for you to be able to do that?